This fact sheet is intended as a guide to the formal steps involved in a divorce.
If you feel that your relationship may be over and you wish to bring it to a formal end with a divorce, you must be able to prove that the relationship has irretrievably broken down.
A divorce legally ends the contract of marriage - in the case of a civil partnership, this process is known as dissolution.
The divorce procedure that is followed in each case follows a set pattern, in which a divorce petition will be filed by the Petitioner, including details of both parties and the grounds for divorce.
This will be sent to the court for checking, before being issued to the other party (the Respondent).
Steps to divorce
In order to complete the divorce procedure, the petitioner must be able to prove one of the following five grounds:
You must be able to prove that your spouse has had sexual intercourse with another person of the opposite sex and that you find it intolerable to go on living with them. If you continue living with your partner for more than six months after finding out about their adultery, you cannot submit this as the reason for your divorce.
2. Unreasonable behaviour
You must show that your spouse has behaved in such a way that you cannot reasonably be expected to live with him or her. This is one of the most common reasons for divorce and often includes behaviour such as physical violence, verbal abuse, drunkenness, or more simply, a lack of emotional support or interest in the relationship.
3. Two years’ separation with both parties agreeing
You can issue proceedings on the grounds that you and your partner have been living apart for a continuous period of two or more years, and you both consent to divorce.
4. Five years’ separation
If you have been living apart for a continuous period of five or more years, you can begin the divorce procedure and in this case, it is not necessary to obtain your partner’s consent.
If citing desertion, your spouse must have deserted you for a continuous period of at least two years, without your agreement or good reason.
What happens next?
Although the Respondent is not required by law to sign and return the petition to the court agreeing or disputing its contents, an acknowledgement form is also sent to the Respondent and they are required to respond within 7 days. If they do not respond, our team take the necessary steps to prove the Respondent has received the paperwork before continuing with the court process. In the case of a dispute, the Respondent must file an answer form within 28 days of receiving the application.
If both sides are in agreement, the Petitioner will then make a sworn statement (a 'statement of truth') confirming that the documentation is true and applying for a Decree Nisi in the case of a divorce, or Conditional Order in the case of a dissolution.
If the court is satisfied, a date will the given for the Decree Nisi (or Conditional Order) to be declared at the court and six weeks after, the Petitioner can apply for the Decree Absolute (or Final Order, in the case of a civil partnership). This is the final stage of the divorce procedure, bringing the relationship to a formal end.
The granting of the Decree Absolute or Final Order affects an existing Will. As such, it is important to make a new Will to update the changes in your circumstances and a solicitors from our Life team will be able to advise you on this.
Courts prefer to leave parents to negotiate arrangements involving children wherever possible. Our family lawyers are committed to helping couples resolve conflict and achieve an outcome that is best for the whole family going forward.
We will tell you at the outset of your case how our costs are calculated and give you our best estimate of the total likely cost of a divorce and other proceedings.
For further advice about your individual circumstances, or to discuss the procedures involved in divorce and dissolution in more detail, call one of our family team on 01423 543108 and ask about a free half hour's advice, and our fixed fee legal services.
Get in touch
If you are considering beginning the steps to divorce, Berwins’ family team can help. Get in touch on 01423 509 000 or email Family@berwin.co.uk to speak with one of our expert family law solicitors.