How to get divorced

Once you have made the heavy decision to get divorced, there is a set process that needs to be followed in order to end the marriage.

If you are eligible for divorce, and you are not able to annul the marriage, you can begin divorce proceedings at any time once you have been married for at least 12 months. If you do not want a divorce, you can get a legal separation so you can live separate lives without ending the marriage.
There is no legal need for a solicitor for divorce, you can represent yourself. However, in order to reach the best possible outcome for you and your family it is beneficial to seek legal support during the process, as separating a marriage is a long and emotional process.

Grounds for divorce

When you apply for a divorce you’ll need to prove that your marriage has broken down and is beyond repair. You’ll need to give at least one or of the following five reasons:

  1. Adultery – your partner had sexual intercourse with someone else of the opposite sex (you cannot give adultery as a reason if you lived together as a couple for more than six months after you found out about it)
  2. Unreasonable behaviour – your partner has behaved in a way that you cannot reasonably be expected to live with them (this includes physical violence, alcoholism and substance abuse)
  3. Desertion – your partner has left you for at least two years (you can claim desertion if you lived together for six months in this period, but that will not count towards the two years)
  4. Agreed Separation – you can apply for a divorce if you’ve been separated for at least two years before applying for divorce and you both agree to it in writing
  5. Separation – you can apply for a divorce if you’ve been separated for at least five years before applying, even if your partner disagrees

Free guide to divorce

Everything you need to know about divorce, in one place. Download our free guide which covers all the main questions around divorce.

Childcare arrangements

Before you divorce, you and your partner should work out a childcare arrangement that works for you both and your child/children. You will usually be able to avoid a hearing if you can agree on where the children will live, how much time they will spend with each of you and how you will both financially support them.
If you are struggling to agree on some of the points outlined above, you may be able to come to a resolution through mediation. Mediation is where you and your partner discuss your disputes with the assistance of a trained impartial third party who will assist you in trying to reach an amicable agreement.

How to apply for divorce

To apply for a divorce you’ll need:

  • Your partner’s full name and address
  • Your original marriage certificate or a certified copy
  • Proof of your name change if you’ve changed it since you got married.

If you are no longer in contact with your partner, you must try to find their current address, as court will need it to send them a copy of the divorce petition. If you choose to name the person your partner committed adultery with, they will also get copies of the paperwork.

Divorce application form

You will need to complete a divorce application form. If you have a solicitor representing you, they will complete this on your behalf and submit this to your nearest divorce centre.
Your application will be checked and if it’s correct, you’ll be sent:

  • A notice that your application has been issued (sent out)
  • A copy of your application stamped by the divorce centre
  • A case number

This could take up to 10 days if you applied online or one month if you applied by post. The court will then proceed to send your partner the divorce application and an ‘acknowledgement of service’ form. Your husband or wife will need to respond to your divorce application.
If you named the person with whom your husband or wife committed adultery with, they’ll also be sent a copy of the application and be asked to respond. We would recommend discussing this with your lawyer first though.

Acknowledgement of divorce application

When your partner responds, they will be asked if they agree, defend (trying to prevent the divorce) or object to paying the costs (if you’ve claimed them). They will be asked to respond within eight days.
If they agree with the divorce, you can continue with the divorce by applying for a decree nisi.
If they defend the divorce, your partner will have to complete an ‘answer to divorce’ form to say why they disagree with the divorce. They must do this within 28 days of getting the divorce application.
If they do not submit an ‘answer to divorce’ form, you can continue the divorce by applying for a decree nisi. If they do not provide an answer to the divorce in time, you may have to go to court to discuss the case.

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Decree nisi

A decree nisi is a document that says that the court does not see any reason why you cannot divorce.
If your partner does not agree to the divorce, you can still apply for a decree nisi. However, you will have to go to a court hearing to discuss the case and a judge will decide whether to allow you to apply for a decree nisi or not.
If the judge doesn’t allow you to apply for a decree nisi then you will need to negotiate with your partner or wait until you have been separated for five years.
Applying for a decree nisi
When you apply for your decree nisi you or your solicitor will need to complete a statement form, confirming what you said in your divorce petition is true. Your partner will also need to complete this and it will be sent to the court.
Once the application has been reviewed and approved by a judge, you will receive a certificate (this could take several weeks).
You will still be married after the decree nisi has been granted. You can apply for a decree absolute 43 days after you receive your decree nisi, which will officially end your marriage.
If your application is rejected, you’ll be told why. This may mean you need to submit further information/evidence for review, or you may be required to go to a court hearing.

Decree absolute

A decree absolute is a court-issued document that legally terminates your marriage and ends divorce proceedings.
Applying for a decree absolute
A decree absolute is the legal document that formally ends your marriage. You need to apply for a decree absolute within 12 months of getting the decree nisi otherwise you will have to explain the delay to the court.
You or your solicitor will need to complete the “notice of application for decree nisi to be made absolute” form.
If you want a legally binding arrangement for dividing your money and property prior to your divorce, then you must arrange this before you apply for the decree absolute. If you are using a solicitor, they will make sure this is arranged in good time.
Getting the decree absolute
When the court receives your application, they will check that the time limits have been met and there are no other reasons not to grant the divorce.
When you apply, you’ll receive your decree absolute within 24 hours (Monday to Friday) if you applied online or 10 days if you applied by post. If a solicitor is acting for you, the decree absolute will be sent to them and they will in turn issue a copy to you.
Once you get the decree absolute, you are divorced, no longer married and free to marry again if you wish. Getting a divorce is a complex and stressful process. It is Terry Jones’ mission to reduce stress and get the desired outcome for our clients.

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