The divorce process explained step by step

The law states that "The court will only grant you a divorce if a judge agrees that your marriage is at an end."  The legal term for this is 'irretrievably broken down'.  Below are the five reasons which you can demonstrate that your marriage is beyond repair.

Adultery by your husband or wife

Desertion for a period of at least two years

Two years' separation, if you both agree to the divorce

Five years' separation, if there is no agreement to the divorce

Unreasonable behaviour by your husband or wife (any behaviour that makes it impossible for you to live with them)


man and woman in bed The great divorce myth
The official line is that "You must satisfy the court that one or more of the above is true as proof that your marriage is over."  However you do not really have to satisfy the court of anything at all.  Obviously the desertion and separation options do need proof, adultery not really.  Choose unreasonable behaviour.  It works every time.

If your husband or wife has not really behaved unreasonably then that does not matter.  All you do is exaggerate or even invent things that they did and say that you felt that this was unreasonable behaviour.  Nobody (except your spouse!) cares whether what you allege is true and it does not have to be proved in court.

This does sound very cynical and hard boiled and I guess it is.  But it's the reality of how divorce works.  If divorce is the only way to resolve your marriage then it is OK to manufacture your own reasons for divorce.  These grounds for divorce do not have to be serious, devoting too much time to a career or having no common interests between you be sufficient.

The basic structure of divorce
The divorce process is highly structured and is best navigated with the help of a good solicitor.  If it's absolutely straight forward then you could do it without but you do need to get things right and it's not that easy.  For a straight forward divorce online is a good choice

Step 1   Filing the Divorce Petition
This is the request to the court to start your divorce.  It contains details of both of you and the reasons for divorce - one of the five grounds for divorce we have defined.  The person applying for the divorce is the Petitioner.  The other spouse is the Respondent. If there is a third party they are the co-respondent.

If there are children then a Statement of Arrangements needs to be submitted which defines the agreed living and contact arrangements for the children after the divorce.  This is sent to the Court.

Step 2   Service of the Petition
The Court checks all these documents and if they are satisfied that they complies with all the requirements they ‘issue' the divorce petition and send it to the Respondent, with any Statement of Arrangements and a form for the Respondent to complete and return to the Court.  This is (rather bizarrely) known as the Acknowledgement of Service.

Step 3   Acknowledging Service of the Petition
The Respondent needs to return the form to the Court within 7 days, indicating whether or not they wish to dispute the divorce proceedings.  The reality is that there is no point in defending a divorce petition, it is rarely successful and always makes the divorce more expensive.

Step 4   Confirmation of the Facts in your Petition
The Court will send the Acknowledgement of Service form to the Petitioner who must then swear an affidavit confirming the facts in the original Petition.  Here lies a big moral dilemma, if you are petitioning on the grounds of ‘unreasonable behaviour' then are you prepared to swear to something which may not be totally true?  Only you can decide that.  The affidavit is sent to the Court with the signed Acknowledgement of Service.

Step 5   Pronouncement of Decree Nisi
If the Court is satisfied with all the documentation they will set a date on which the Decree Nisi will be granted.  It is not usually necessary for the parties to attend Court to hear this being pronounced, unless there are some outstanding issues.  Now the divorce process is nearly complete.

Step 6   Application for the Decree Absolute
Six weeks and 1 day after the Decree Nisi is pronounced the Petitioner can apply for the Decree Absolute. There is a standard application form and a Court fee to be paid.  Once this has been granted and sealed by the court you are officially divorced.

Now it's over and the good things of your new life after divorce can begin.

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