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The Divorce Process in the United Kingdom

Obtaining a divorce can be a highly emotional process and can be, at times, fairly confusing. If you feel as though your marriage has irretrievably broken down and you have decided that you want a divorce, the first thing you will need to do is to decide on your reasons for divorce. These reasons are known as the ‘grounds for divorce’ and are divided into five categories. These are adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion, two years’ separation and five years’ separation. Further information about the grounds for divorce can be found in the Squidoo, ‘What are the Grounds for Divorce?’ Once you have decided on the grounds for your divorce you can then advance into the main divorce process. If your case is fairly straightforward and you and your spouse are fairly prompt with your paperwork, the process should not take any longer than 8 months.

After deciding on your grounds for divorce you will need to file a Divorce Application. This is a request recognised by the courts to start divorce proceedings. It will contain information about you and your spouse and the grounds for divorce. The person who has filed for divorce is known as the ‘applicant’ while the other person is known as the ‘respondent’. You will need to fill out three copies of the divorce petition. If you are applying for a divorce on the grounds of adultery, it is possible to name the other person your spouse committed adultery with. Many legal professionals will often advise against this, however, as it can anger the respondent and make them unwilling to cooperate in the proceedings. If you have children together who are either under sixteen or under eighteen and still in education a Statement of Arrangements will have to be filled out. This form will state the living arrangements for the children after the divorce.

Once you have completed the Divorce Application you will need to send it with you marriage certificate (not a copy) and a Court Fee (usually £340) to the Court. When you have done this the divorce process will have begun. The Court will check your documents and make sure they are happy with the details. They will then issue the divorce application and send it to the Respondent. They will also send any Statements of Arrangements and an Acknowledgement of Service form. When the Respondent receives these documents they will have to read them through carefully and decide whether or not they agree with the terms of the divorce. If they are happy not to dispute the case they have to fill out the Acknowledgement of Service form and return it to the Court within seven days. If they do wish to dispute the divorce they will have to fill out a separate form and return it within 28 days. If they wish to apply for a divorce against you, they are perfectly able to do this and have to complete their own petition called a ‘cross petition’.

If your spouse fills out and signs the Acknowledgement of Service form and returns it to the Court, a copy will be sent to you. The next step in the divorce process is to swear an Affidavit. An Affidavit is a statement sworn under oath that the facts in the Divorce Application are all true. The Affidavit is sent to the Court with the signed Acknowledgement of Service. If the process so far has been carried out to the Court’s satisfaction they will set a date for the Decree Nisi to be pronounced. You will not usually need to be present in Court for the pronouncement of the Decree Nisi.

Six weeks and a day (no earlier) after the pronouncement of the Decree Nisi the Applicant can apply for the Decree Absolute. This is the final step that will completely end your marriage. You will need to fill in an application form and pay a standard fee of £45. Once the Court grants your request for the Decree Absolute the divorce process will be finished. If you, as the applicant, fail to apply for the Decree Absolute, your spouse is eligible to apply three months later.

The divorce process can be fairly complicated and many of the documents need to be in a specific form. Though you can arrange your own divorce without involving a solicitor, it is usually helpful to engage the services of a family law solicitor. They can help you fill out the paperwork and can ensure that your documents are in the correct format. If you and your partner cannot find a middle ground over the issues of children, property or possessions a mediator may be able to help. A mediator is a person independent from both you and your spouse who will try to help you reach an agreement without taking sides. Solicitors can also do this on your behalf; they will negotiate with your spouse or their solicitor to reach an agreement over the divorce process. A solicitor will also be able to arrange for your Affidavit to be sworn under oath. If you still cannot come to an agreement with your spouse it is likely you will have to go to Court to settle the matter.

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