Divorce: Your Easy Guide to the Legal Process

The UK divorce process is actually more simple than you probably think. When you think about divorce, you think about your friends and family who spent months if not years arguing, bickering and spending a fortune. You probably think that this is normal, the divorce has to take forever and it has to cost you a fortune.  

Reality check.

The UK marriage process is actually pretty simple. It’s the emotions that surround it that cost you time and money.

No really, it’s that simple.

How The Divorce Process Works

Step 1

Find your marriage certificate

The first thing that you need to do if you’re getting divorced is find your marriage certificate. You are going to need your marriage certificate when you file your divorce petition. You should’ve kept your marriage certificate safe but if you haven’t, don’t worry you can apply for a certified copy from the General Registry Office. Once you have this you can then start your divorce proceedings by applying online with a downloadable form and sending your form at your local divorce County Court. Please bear in mind that not every local County Court  in the UK now deals with divorce but you can to find this information online at www.Gov.uk/divorce.

Step 2

File your divorce petition

The form that you need to complete is the D8 – the divorce petition. On the divorce petition you must include your full name and address your husband’s full name and address and your original marriage certificate. Include the names and dates of birth of any children that you have no matter how old they are. The person who files for divorce is called the ‘petitioner’ the other person is known as the ‘respondent’. 

The  D8 is eight pages long and is quite straightforward to fill in. The form ask requires you to complete you and your husbands details, those of your children and a statement of your case (why you want a divorce). Also included are the details of your solicitors (if you have them) and the details of the co-respondent if there is one. A co-respondent is a person you would like to name as a person involved in the grounds of your divorce. If your husband has been having an affair for example. Even if he has, you do not need to name this person in your petition. Doing so often complicates matters which will inevitably increase your costs. There are notes supporting the completion of the form D8 so don’t worry if it feels overwhelming.

So what are the grounds of divorce?

Primarily you must have been married for at least 12 months before you can apply for divorce in the UK. Your marriage must have broken down irretrievably.

  • Adultery  
  • Unreasonable Behaviour
  • Desertion
  • The two of you been separated for two years and both of you agree or;
  • The two of you have been separated for five years and one person to the marriage does not agree.

One of the above grounds must have been met in order for you to successfully petitioned the judge for a divorce.

There is no definition of what amounts to ‘unreasonable behaviour’.  If you wish to rely on this ground, it is advisable to agree the wording of this in advance with your husband if you can by sending a draft copy to him.

Disputing the grounds of divorce takes time and money. People get understandably upset when they are portrayed as the ‘bad guy’. Unreasonable behaviour can’t include things like going to the pub, staying out late, but equally, abuse doesn’t have to have been any physical violence.

If the two of you can agree the grounds of the divorce it will make it quicker and cheaper for you. If you can agree the grounds of the divorce it will mean that it is more likely that your partner will not contest the divorce. Let me be clear, this approach will not be safe or suitable for everyone. I’m talking here about couples who know that divorce is the next step for them or, women who are safe to do this. If this is not you, this is not a step you should take.

In my experience many divorces go sour because when the petitioner files, they outline ‘unreasonable behaviour’ in such a way that makes the other person look bad. This causes anger and upset and frustrates the divorce process. It may be necessary for you to do this, and again, I’m not talking about you if this is your situation. If you can get some help on drafting the grounds of ‘unreasonable behaviour’ so that there is just enough to satisfy the legal requirements this will be more than sufficient to help your divorce move forward.

Step 3

The Acknowledgement of Service and notice of issue of petition

Once the petition has been sent to the court, the court sends your husband the divorce petition with an Acknowledgement of Service form. The court at the same time will also send a Notice of Issue of Petition to you. The respondent ( your husband) has seven days to file a response to the petition.

You must wait a period of eight days to see if your husband responds to the petition. If he doesn’t, you must personally serve him.

Anyone who wishes to defend the divorce on the Acknowledgement of Service  and file a defence has 21days from being served in order to do so. Once you can prove service and waited the further 21 days for him to respond, you can then ask the court to look at whether in its opinion, there is sufficient grounds of your divorce.

Step 4

The Decree Nisi

When the Court is satisfied that the grounds of your divorce are met, it will issue a Decree Nisi.   The fee for the Decree Nisi is included in the initial court fee of £410 so you won’t be asked to pay any more money at this stage but you will be asked to fill in the form D84  which is the application form. It may take up to 2 months for the court to process and pronounce the Decree Nisi  in court. You will not need to attend this hearing. The court will undoubtedly pronounce your Decree Nisi along with several others  in court. I know, an anti-climax right?

Step 5

The Decree Absolute

Once your Decree Nisi has been pronounced in court, you have to wait six weeks and one day before you can ask the court to pronounce the Decree Absolute. The Decree Absolute is the piece of paper which confirms you are divorced! Application is made on form D36. If you are the respondent to the divorce (in other words, your husband filed the petition),and he has not applied for the Decree Absolute after the 6 weeks and 1 day, you must wait a period of three months from that six weeks and one day to apply for the Decree Absolute yourself (if you want to). The fee for this is £155.

Remember, if you are the respondent to the petition, the time frames outlined above regarding responding apply to you.

So,that’s the divorce process in a nutshell. You see that actually it is quite straightforward.

What takes the time, are the negotiations over finances and child contact.

Whilst it is possible to finalise your divorce before you reach these agreements, often it is better to hold off applying for the Decree Absolute until Consent Orders regarding your children and finances can be drawn up. In reality, it is the financial negotiations and those around the children that take the time and emotion in your divorce so the more organised you can be and the clearer you can be about what it is you want from your divorce the quicker and easy of the divorce process will be. You’ll see now why the Collaborative Process and Family Mediation can really help you and assist you in dealing with these the financial orders. 

If this process feels overwhelming to you, take a breath and just take it one step at  a time.

Get clear on where you want to divorce. If you do, find your divorce certificate first. Taking small steps will help it feel more manageable.

Consider using a Divorce Coach. In my recent article, Why do I need a Divorce Coach, 7 reasons why a Divorce Coach is a Necessity not a Luxury, I shared the benefits of having someone support you with your journey. Check it out, you’ll find it useful.

I’m Emma Heptonstall The Divorce Alchemist. I support smart sassy women like you to manage their divorce with ease. Contact me today for your free 30 minute Discovery Call and let’s make your divorce simple!

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