Guide to Divorce
All undefended divorces follow the same process as set out below.
1. Issuing the Divorce Petition at Court
The Divorce Petition sets out factual information about both parties. It also specifies the basis of the divorce. All Divorce Petitions must be based on the 'irretrievable breakdown of the marriage', but this must be based on one of the five facts.
We will discuss which of the above is the best option for you, draft the Divorce Petition on your behalf, liaise with you concerning any amendments and, where appropriate, seek to agree the contents of the Divorce Petition with your spouse or their solicitor.
If there are children a Statement of Arrangements form must be filed at Court with your Divorce Petition. This forms sets out the arrangements for the children and should, where possible, be agreed with the other party. This form is not, however, legally binding or enforceable.
The Divorce Petition is filed at Court with the Statement of Arrangements for the Children form (where appropriate) and the Marriage Certificate. The Court charges a fee of £550 to issue a Divorce Petition. This is payable when the Divorce Petition is submitted to the Court.
2. Service of the Divorce Petition on the other party
If the Court is satisfied with the divorce documents the Divorce Petition will be issued and allocated a case number. A copy of the Divorce Petition, together with a copy of the Statement of Arrangements for the Children form (where appropriate) is then sent by the Court to the other party or to his/her solicitor. At the same time the Court will send the other party a blank Acknowledgement of Service form.
3. The Acknowledgement of Service form
The Acknowledgement of Service form should be completed and returned to the Court by the other party within 7 days although this time limit is not strictly enforced by the Court. The other party should state on the Acknowledgement of Service form whether he or she intends to defend the divorce, whether any adultery or unreasonable behaviour allegations are admitted and whether he or she objects to paying the Petitioner's costs (if claimed).
4. Applying for Decree Nisi
The Court will send the Petitioner a copy of the Respondent's completed Acknowledgement of Service form. This will enable the Petitioner to apply for Decree Nisi. An application form is submitted to the Court together with a signed statement confirming that the facts relied on in the Divorce Petition are true. No court fee is payable.
5. Decree Nisi
Provided the Judge is content with the documents Decree Nisi will be pronounced. Decree Nisi does not dissolve the marriage. It is, however, an important stage in the divorce process for 2 reasons:
- Decree Nisi confirms that Decree Absolute can be applied for by the Petitioner in 6 weeks and 1 day; and
- Decree Nisi gives the Court jurisdiction to make a financial order – this includes the ability to approve a financial settlement reached by agreement thus ensuring that the terms of the settlement are binding and enforceable.
6. Application for Decree Absolute
The Petitioner is able to apply for Decree Absolute 6 weeks and 1 day after pronouncement of Decree Nisi. The application is made by submitting a form to the Court. No fee is payable. If no final order has been made regarding a financial settlement it is likely that we will advise a Petitioner not to apply to the Court for Decree Absolute until a final order has been made. However, this depends on the facts of your case.
The Respondent can apply for Decree Absolute 3 months after the date on which the Petitioner could have applied (so roughly 4.5 months after Decree Nisi) but an additional application is required and a court fee will be payable by the Respondent. It is possible that the Court may refuse the Respondent's application if a final order regarding finances has not been made by the Court.
7. Decree Absolute - the final step
Decree Absolute is the final step in the divorce process. It is the Decree Absolute that dissolves a marriage. Decree Absolute is usually made by the Court within 2-7 working days of the application. Most financial orders take effect on Decree Absolute.
How quickly can I get divorced?
It is possible to complete the divorce process in 12 weeks although this depends upon each party filing documents at court promptly and there being no dispute about financial matters. It is for this reason that we encourage financial settlement negotiations at an early stage.
How much does a divorce cost?
At Linnitts we offer a fixed fee divorce package (link to fixed fee page). For a very reasonable fixed fee we will complete all documentation on your behalf, lodge all necessary documents at court, correspond with your spouse or his or her solicitor and advise you fully at each stage of the proceedings. Our fixed fee will cover all of our costs regardless of how long or complex your divorce is.
If you wish to apply for a divorce you will be classed as the 'Petitioner'. If your spouse has applied for a divorce you will be classed as the 'Respondent'. For an undefended Petitioner divorce we charge a fixed fee of £385 plus VAT and court fees. For an undefended Respondent divorce we charge a fixed fee of £220 plus VAT.
Whilst it appears to be a cheaper option to be the Respondent in the divorce process it may be advisable for you to issue divorce proceedings for two reasons. Firstly, the Petitioner largely retains control of the timing of the divorce. Secondly, the Petitioner can apply to the Court in the Divorce Petition for an Order that the Respondent pay his or her divorce costs. This can leave the Respondent paying his or her own legal costs as well as the legal costs of the other party.
What about financial settlements?
It is important to understand that if no final order has been made by the Court regarding finances then it remains open to either party to make financial claims against the other even following Decree Absolute, i.e. even after they are divorced. It is vital therefore, that legal advice is taken in respect of financial matters at an early stage in the divorce. Please click here for further information regarding financial matters arising from your divorce.
Do I really need a Solicitor?
Although it may be tempting to deal with your own divorce to try to save legal costs this can be counterproductive. It is possible when completing a Divorce Petition to inadvertently harm your case in respect of children and/or financial matters. Further, if mistakes are made or important information is omitted it may be necessary to instruct a solicitor to deal with these issues later on. In some cases, additional applications to the Court may be required to rectify these mistakes. Not only could this prove more costly but it could significantly delay your divorce.
Although the divorce process may appear simple it is important to seek advice from a Solicitor before issuing divorce proceedings as the Divorce Petition forms the basis not only of your divorce, but also of your application for a Financial Order. Additional applications to the Court may be required if the correct financial applications are not made in your Divorce Petition.