Getting a Divorce

Getting a Divorce

The prospect of getting divorced can be daunting, but the process need not be difficult with the right professional help.  Because a divorce can raise sensitive and personal issues, it is important to choose a solicitor who makes you feel comfortable.

How we can help you

We will:

  • explain the divorce process to you;
  • start the divorce action for you;
  • once it is under way, keep you informed of any developments.

Grounds for divorce

You will only be granted a divorce if you can demonstrate that your marriage has suffered an “irretrievable breakdown”.  To do this you must show that your marriage is beyond repair because:

  • your partner has committed adultery
  • your partner’s behaviour is such that you cannot reasonably be expected to live with them;
  • you have not lived with your partner for two years or more;
  • you have been separated from your partner for two years and have their agreement to apply for a divorce, or
  • you have been separated from your partner for five years or more

We will be able to give you more details of each of these sets of circumstances and which is appropriate for you.  If a divorce decree is against your religion, we can give you advice about other forms of separation.

Who can start divorce proceedings?

Anyone who has been married for at least a year and provided that either you or your partner has been living in England and Wales for the preceding year.

The divorce process

The legal formality of getting a divorce is a relatively straightforward process.  What is generally much less straightforward is sorting out the practical issues associated with a divorce, such as where each person will live, who gets what, and arrangements for any children.  How long the divorce process will take depends on how co-operative you and your partner are and how quickly the court is able to process your case.  A straightforward undefended divorce should take around five to six months from the date the divorce petition is issued.

The legal terms used in divorce

In all legal documents and court actions, the person applying for a divorce is known as “the petitioner”, and the person they are divorcing is “the respondent”.

Initial letter to the respondent

If you are applying for the divorce, we will usually start the process by writing a letter to your partner to tell them that you are planning to start divorce action and to give them the opportunity of seeing the petition before it is filed with the court.  The letter will also recommend that your partner gets independent legal advice if they have not already done so.

Divorce petition

We will send the divorce petition to the court.  The petition sets out whether you will be asking your partner to pay for the costs of the divorce or to provide some other sort of financial support for you or your children.  The court will send a copy of the petition to your partner or their solicitor to reply within seven days.

Once your partner or their solicitor has replied to the petition, you will need to confirm your intention to go ahead with the divorce application by completing an application and short statement.  Your application is then lodged with the court.

Decree Nisi

Once the court is satisfied that you should have a divorce, it sets a date and time for the judge to pronounce the “decree nisi”.  You do not need to go to court for this.  It is simply a statement from the court that the divorce can go ahead and the divorce papers are approved.  You are not actually divorced at this stage.

If at this point you and your partner have not agreed who should pay the legal costs of the divorce, the judge pronouncing the decree nisi will make a decision for you.

Decree absolute

Six weeks after the decree nisi, you can have the divorce made “absolute”.  This legally dissolves the marriage.  However, it is usually better to wait until financial (“ancillary relief”) matters have been settled before finalising your divorce.

14 August 2014


The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. The law may have changed since this article was published. Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances. (50587)