How do I obtain a divorce?

Stage one

You need to decide the reasons or grounds for divorce. It will be quicker to try to agree the contents of these grounds before a divorce petition is filed. You need to show the court that your marriage has broken down irretrievably, and this is done by proving one of five grounds, these are:

Adultery: Your husband or wife has had sex with someone else of the opposite sex, and you do not wish to continue living together, or you decided not to continue living together within six months of either being told about the adultery, or within six months of the adultery taking place. You will need to set out details of when the adultery happened, and an admission from your husband or wife. If they will not admit to the adultery, then this needs further consideration of the possible options.

Unreasonable behaviour: If your husband or wife behaves so badly that you can’t live together anymore, then you will set out the types of behaviour. It is best to try to agree these allegations beforehand to avoid the need to amend them after filing the divorce petition at court, which will cause a delay.

Desertion: You will need to show that your husband or wife has left you without your agreement, without a good reason, for a period of more than two years in the last two and a half years.

Living separately for more than two years with agreement on both sides: You should try to agree the date of separation, and it is possible to have lived together for up to six months during this time, provided you have been apart two years altogether.

Living separately for more than five years: You can apply here without the agreement of your husband or wife, and only in the case of extreme financial difficulty can your husband or wife delay the conclusion of the divorce.

Stage two

We will file the divorce papers. The divorce petition will have the details of the grounds stated for the irretrievable marriage breakdown. If you have children, you will complete a statement of arrangements for, and this should preferably be agreed with your husband or wife. It sets out all the day to day arrangements, educational and health details of the children that the court needs to know as part of the process. You will need to file your marriage certificate, or a certified copy, and the court fee.

Stage three

The court checks and then issues the divorce papers, and a copy is sent usually by the court by post to your husband or wife. They will also receive an acknowledgement form to complete and return to the court. This form is where they can confirm their agreement to the divorce, and agreement or otherwise to the arrangements set out for the children. Once the court receives this form, we can proceed to apply for a Decree Nisi. The Decree Nisi is the middle stage in the divorce, although you are still married at this time. You may not need to attend court to hear the Decree Nisi declaration, unless the court needs to resolve a disagreement about who should pay or contribute to the costs of the divorce.

​Stage four

You can apply to finalise your divorce six weeks after the court issues the Decree Nisi. This is called the decree absolute, and this order legally ends your marriage. If you were the person who received the divorce papers, then you can apply in your own right for the decree absolute provided that three months and six weeks has passed by since the Decree Nisi.

What might slow down my divorce?
If the court considers that the arrangements for the children are not satisfactory, then it might ask you first to work out some different arrangements.

Usually, the fact that you have not yet agreed a way to divide the property, money and assets will not delay the grant of decree absolute, but in cases of pension disputes, if the pension fund is sizeable, then the court might consider that one of you might suffer a financial prejudice in the event that the decree absolute goes ahead before the pension issue is resolved, and in this case, you will need to resolve the financial and pension issues first.

I was married abroad — can I get a divorce in England & Wales? You will need to meet two conditions. First, the marriage has to be legal in the country where it took place so that it is a recognised marriage here. Second, you have a permanent home in England and Wales, even if you spend some time working abroad.

Please contact our specialist family law team, to discuss this issue, or any other issue of family law or relationship breakdown.

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