Divorce proceedings
John Boon

Divorce Proceedings

When a marriage comes to an end, or in the event that there are difficulties in your marriage, it is important that you take the right advice from the outset. Errors made at the start of the process can have impact on the final outcome.

Speaking to a professional will help to clarify key issues, take away some of the inevitable confusion and set right misconceptions. We are on your side and will do everything to help make the process as smooth and as trouble free as possible.

Grounds for divorce

It is possible to get divorced as long as you have been married for at least one year and you are able to demonstrate to the Courts that your marriage has broken down irretrievably. In order to demonstrate this to the Court, a Petitioner must rely on one of five facts.

These are:

  • adultery;
  • unreasonable behaviour;
  • desertion;
  • two years' separation with the consent of both parties;
  • five years' separation.

The divorce process

There are three main stages in a divorce:

  • filing the Petition for Divorce;
  • applying for a Decree Nisi – if the Judge is satisfied that the parties are entitled to a divorce, a Judge will set a date for the pronouncement of the Decree Nisi;
  • applying for the Decree Absolute – this finally terminates the marriage.​

How long does it take to get divorced?

We are often asked how long a divorce takes, but there is no definitive answer. Typically, an uncontested divorce suit will take around six months from start to finish. The precise length of the proceedings will depend on a number of factors, including the level of co-operation from the other party, the efficiency of the court and whether formal attendances at court are required. The time taken to resolve the financial claims arising out of the breakdown of the marriage may also have an impact.

Once we have managed to obtain a clear picture as to the circumstances of your case, we will provide you with an estimate of the likely timescale for concluding the proceedings, but please be aware this is only an estimate.

How much does a divorce cost?

Generally speaking, an application for a divorce will cost about £500 plus VAT and court fees.  The cost of the proceedings will however depend on a number of factors, including the level of co-operation from the other party and whether formal attendances at court are required. The court fee for filing a petition with the court is presently £550. 

Once we have managed to obtain a clear picture as to the circumstances of your case, we will provide you with an estimate of the likely cost of the divorce proceedings.

What are the grounds for divorce?

It is possible to get divorced as long as you have been married for at least one year and you are able to demonstrate to the courts that your marriage has broken down irretrievably. In order to demonstrate this to the court, the petitioner (the party presenting the petition for divorce) must rely on one of five facts.

These are:

  • your spouse has committed adultery and you find it intolerable to live with them;
  • your spouse has behaved in such a way that you cannot reasonably be expected to live with them;
  • your spouse has deserted for a continuous period of at least two years immediately preceding the presentation of the petition;
  • you and your spouse have lived apart for a continuous period of at least two years immediately preceding the presentation of the petition for divorce and your spouse consents to a decree being granted; and,
  • you and your spouse have lived apart for a continuous period of at least five years immediately preceding the presentation of the petition for divorce.

What is the divorce process?

There are three main stages in a divorce:

  • filing the application for divorce;
  • applying for a decree nisi – if the judge is satisfied that the parties are entitled to a divorce, a judge will set a date for the pronouncement of the decree nisi; and,
  • applying for the decree absolute – this finally terminates the marriage.​

What is a decree nisi?

The decree nisi is issued by the court as formal recognition that the petitioner has sufficiently proved the contents of the petition and the parties are entitled to a divorce, unless sufficient cause can be shown that the marriage should not be dissolved.  However, this is not the final decree, and the parties are still married unless and until the decree absolute is pronounced.

What is a decree absolute?

The decree absolute represents the final decree, which finally dissolves the parties’ marriage.

How are assets divided in a divorce?

The financial claims arising from the breakdown of a marriage are resolved by reference to the criteria set out in Section 25 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973, the overriding objective being a fair outcome. In order to establish how to divide the “matrimonial pot” we will first need to establish what is in the pot and will thus need to compute both parties' resources. Once we have a clear picture of the finances, we would then, within the context of the section 25 criteria, consider ways of distributing those resources between the parties by reference to three principles, namely need, compensation and sharing.

What is a clean break?

A clean break is an arrangement to a divorce between the parties and approved by the court, which will enable them to sever their financial responsibilities and entitlements. The court has a statutory duty to consider a clean break in every case. However, it is not always possible and will very much depend on the facts of each case.

What happens to the children on divorce?

Following divorce (and even the separation of non-married couples), the parties need to agree suitable arrangements in respect of the children, i.e. who they are to live with, etc.  The paramount consideration is the children’s welfare. If the parties are able to agree suitable arrangements which are in the best interests of the children’s welfare, then the court will not seek to intervene. However, unless suitable arrangements can be agreed, then a party may have no option but to make an application to the court. The court could be asked to make one of three orders provided for in Section 8 of the Children Act 1989, namely a child arrangements order, a prohibited steps order and/or a specific issue order.

Will I have to go to court for a divorce?

We endeavour to deal with divorce proceedings ‘on paper’. The process is administered by the local divorce unit, with a view to saving time and costs.  However, court attendances may be required in the event of a defended divorce suit, or if there is a dispute over who pays the costs of the divorce proceedings.

Formal attendances at court may also be necessary to determine the financial claims arising from the breakdown of the marriage, or to address any issues which may arise in respect of any children unless, again, an agreement can be reached out of court. Attendances at court can cause delays and can be very expensive. They can also be very stressful for the parties and, therefore, we endeavour to use the courts as a last resort.

How can we help?

Going through a divorce can be an extremely stressful time and decisions made during the process will have a significant impact on your future.  Our team members are specialists and have the experience and ability to reduce the stress and hardship involved and can assist you with the various issues which arise.

We will:

  • make sure that you understand the process and explain the legal issues involved;
  • help you to think clearly about the consequences of decisions;
  • strive to ensure that the best possible outcome is achieved.

Next step

If you are currently experiencing difficulties in your marriage or are contemplating issuing divorce proceedings, or if your spouse has indicated an intention to you or has issued proceedings, it is very important you speak to someone as soon as possible.

Please contact a member of the Family team for an appointment. They will listen to your concerns, explain how they can help and the options available to you.

 

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