Nick Ingrey
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Frequently Asked Questions

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.

What is separation agreement?

It is possible to live apart without divorcing or dissolving your civil partnership, but still address the financial consequences of the breakdown of your relationship.

You may wish to enter into a separation agreement for a number of reasons, such as:

  • if you have a religious belief against divorce;
  • you have been married for less than a year; and/or
  • you wish to wait until you have been separated for more than two years to initiate divorce proceedings.

You will need to think about how any joint assets are to be divided, what will happen in the event that there are divorce proceedings in the future and, of course, if there are any children, you will need to come to arrangements regarding with whom they shall live and what arrangements will be put in place for the non-resident parent. This may be regulated by way of a Separation Agreement. A separation agreement is effectively a contract between the parties dealing with their obligations to each other.  It could deal with the distribution of their assets and liabilities and could also record the arrangements in respect of any children, if necessary.

Is a separation agreement legally binding?

A Separation Agreement cannot oust the jurisdiction of the court and there is thus a risk that the provisions of a separation agreement could ultimately be overturned by the court if they were deemed to be unfair. Therefore, the court has the power to vary the terms of a separation agreement. However, if certain requirements are met and it can be proven that the agreement provides a fair outcome in the circumstances of the case, having regard to the parties’ personal and financial circumstances, then a court will be slow to overturn such an agreement.

What is mediation and is it compulsory?

Mediation is one form of non-court dispute resolution.  Individuals can use the process to address a wide range of family-related issues.  The purpose of family mediation is to help people address issues, including arrangements relating to children, finances and property, arising out of the breakdown of their marriage or relationship in an informal and non-confrontational manner.  The process is intended to give people an opportunity to control the outcome of the dispute themselves, rather than having the matter determined/imposed by the court.

Mediation is a voluntary process.  However, subject to certain exemptions, it is not possible to issue an application for a child arrangements order or an application for a financial order unless a party has attended a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (a MIAM) with an accredited mediator.

What is a pre-nuptial agreement?

A pre-nuptial agreement is an agreement in writing entered into by two parties prior to their marriage, or entry into a civil partnership, which records how they wish their resources to be treated and distributed in the event that they divorce or have their civil partnership dissolved.

Is a pre-nuptial agreement legally binding?

Historically, it was contrary to public policy for married couples, or couples about to get married, to make an arrangement which provided for the contingency that they might separate. However, attitudes have changed over the years and in October 2010, the Supreme Court in the reported case of Radmacher v Granatino held that, in the case of both pre-nuptial and post-nuptial agreements:

“The Court should give effect to a nuptial settlement that is freely entered into by each party with full appreciation of its implications unless in the circumstances prevailing it would not be fair to hold the parties to their agreement.”

Notwithstanding the Supreme Court’s ruling, pre-nuptial agreements are not binding in the sense of being enforceable contracts; nor are they permitted to prevent the court exercising its jurisdiction to make financial orders on a divorce or dissolution of a civil partnership. However, agreements which are properly entered into are now recognised by the divorce courts in England & Wales and significant weight is being given to them in any financial claims on divorce or on the dissolution of a civil partnership.  The position could change in the future and agreements of this type could become legally binding.