Divorce Procedure in England & Wales

The divorce procedure is usually a purely administrative one, as long as the spouse being divorced does not defend it.

In most cases, the procedure is completed in four to six months.

A divorce is started by filing a divorce petition at court that sets out the details of your marriage and your children and the reason that you want a divorce.

The divorce petition is in a standard form, with space for you to incorporate your own personal circumstances.

There are also other documents that need to be filed at the same time as well as the court fee which is currently £510.

The divorce procedure can be broken down into three main stages. The three stages of the divorce procedure are:

Stage 1. The divorce petition stage and application for directions
Stage 2. the pronouncement of the decree nisi
Stage 3. the decree absolute stage

Stage 1 – The divorce petition & Application for Directions for Trial (Special Procedure)

Your petition for divorce, setting out the grounds for divorce and the ‘fact’ relied upon must be filed at the court along with the court filing fee of £510.

Along with the divorce petition you must also file at the court the original of your marriage certificate and a Certificate as to Reconciliation.

At this stage you become the ‘petitioner’ and your spouse becomes the ‘respondent’. In adultery cases you may also have a ‘co-respondent’; that is a second respondent who will usually be the person with whom you allege that your spouse has been adulterous.

The divorce petition must then be served on your spouse, the respondent in the divorce suit.

This is usually done by post by the court. However in instances where your spouse is likely to want to avoid or delay the divorce proceedings they may need to have these documents served on them by a court bailiff or process server. We work closely with specialised teams of bailiffs and process servers who can serve these documents and even find and locate evasive spouses and their assets.

The divorce petition will be served on your spouse with an Acknowledgement of Service form from the court.

Your spouse has seven days from the date of being served with the divorce petition and acknowledgement of service form, to respond to the court indicating whether or not they consent to the divorce proceeding undefended.

Where your spouse confirms that they do not intend to defend the divorce and will consent to the divorce going forward undefended, the matter can then be listed by the court in what is called the ‘Special Procedure’ list.

Stage 2 – The Decree Nisi is Pronounced

In order for the divorce suit to proceed toward the pronouncement of the decree nisi of divorce, you, the petitioner, must file with the court a statement in support of your petition.

This is then filed at the court with an an Application for Directions For Trial (Special Procedure). This usually means that the court will set the matter down in the court diary for consideration by a District Judge.

You will not normally need to attend that hearing. At the hearing the District Judge will also consider the arrangements for the children. The District Judge will ‘pronounce the decree nisi of divorce‘.

The decree nisi of divorce is pronounced in open court and if anyone wishes to object to the decree nisi being pronounced then that is when they will have an opportunity to make their objection to the District Judge.

Stage 3 – The Decree Absolute of Divorce

Once a decree nisi has been pronounced then the petitioner must wait at least 6 weeks from the date of the pronouncement of the decree nisi before an application can be made to the court for the decree nisi to be made absolute. That is called the decree absolute of divorce.

Once a decree absolute of divorce is made then the marriage is officially at an end and the parties are formally divorced.

If for any reason the petitioner does not apply for the decree absolute of divorce six weeks after the pronouncement of the decree nisi then the respondent is not allowed to make this application themselves for quite a while longer.

The respondent cannot apply for a decree nisi to be made absolute until the expiry of three months after the expiry of the six week period. That means that a respondent cannot apply for a decree nisi to be made into a decree absolute of divorce until 18 weeks have elapsed after the date on which the decree nisi was pronounced.

After your divorce

Most people believe that once they are divorced then their former spouse can’t make an application for a financial settlement, called Ancillary Relief, against them. Sadly this is a big misconception.

Former spouses can usually still apply for a financial settlement in respect of a former marriage many years after their divorce.

That is one reason why divorcing couples should seek professional legal advice when contemplating divorce and not settle for the cheap DIY divorce kits and automated online divorce companies.

A professional specialist and expert firm of solicitors like Mansouri & Son Solicitors will ensure that at the time of your divorce a legally binding agreement is prepared for you and sealed by the court ensuring that your former spouse can never make a financial claim against you in future in respect of the marriage.

This is called a ‘consent order‘. What’s more we can usually do this for you at a fixed fee, we will deal with all the legalities and technicalities, all the drafting, the enquiries and the negotiations and leave you to start to recover your life knowing that you have a team of highly experienced specialist solicitors looking after your best interests at all times.

Call us today on 020 8401 7352 to book an appointment with an expert specialist divorce solicitor or email us your query.

For details of Islamic Divorce – Talaq – see here