How To Get A Divorce


The Christmas and New Year holiday period places a strain on any family already trying to juggle the demands of work and children.  And for some whose marriage is already close to breaking point, the festive period is the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

If you have decided to separate from your spouse, your first questions will be around the mechanics of the divorce procedure; what will happen to our children, how much money will I be able to obtain in a financial settlement and will I have to move to a new house?

To help you answer these questions, this article is designed to be a practical guide to getting a divorce.  The information is for guidance only, therefore, it is imperative that you seek legal advice as soon as possible to ensure your interests are protected.  It should be noted that domestic violence and abuse are not covered in this guide. If you are a victim of violence within your relationship, please contact a solicitor immediately.  You can also find support and advice at https://www.refuge.org.uk/get-help-now/.

The grounds for divorce

There is only one ground for divorce in English law, and that is that the marriage has irretrievably broken down because of:

Most divorce cases cite adultery or unreasonable behaviour which allows the process to begin immediately.  You must have been married for at least 12 months before you can apply for a divorce.

Filing for a divorce

If you wish to divorce your spouse, you must send the relevant paperwork to your nearest Divorce Centre.  If you are an international family, your solicitor will advise you on the most advantageous jurisdiction to file papers in.  At present, London is known as the divorce capital of the world because of the generosity judges tend to show to financially weaker spouses in high-net-worth divorce cases.  Therefore, if you are the wealthier party, you are likely to want to fight tooth and nail to have your divorce decided in another legal jurisdiction.  In these cases, time is of the essence as jurisdiction may be determined by which court was first notified of the proceedings.

The divorce petition, as it is known, must contain the reason for the divorce, and all of the particulars such as the parties’ names, addresses, and the date of the marriage.  If you are filing the petition, you will be known as the Petitioner, and your spouse will be referred to as the Respondent (these terms will be used for the remainder of the article).

After the Petitioner sends their petition to their nearest Divorce Centre, along with the court fee (at the time of writing, this was £550), the centre will serve the petition on the Respondent by post.

Most divorces are undefended.  An allegation of unreasonable behaviour can cause some people to become angry or upset (very few couples agree on the reasons for a divorce).  The solution to this is, rather than attempt to defend the divorce, is simply to ask the Petitioner to amend the particulars of the petition.  Most family law solicitors are well-versed at negotiating these situations and can quickly come to an agreement both parties are happy with.

If the Respondent agrees with the contents of the petition, they will need to file an Acknowledgment of Service.  If this is not sent on time, or the Respondent ignores the divorce petition, the process can continue if the court is satisfied that the petition was received.

Working out arrangements for children and the financial settlement

Both parties will need to work out arrangements for their children.  This involves deciding who the children will predominantly live with and when the other parent will have contact.  In most situations, couples will work arrangements out between themselves.  If a dispute arises, your solicitor can organise round-table negotiations or mediation to help both of you come to an agreement that will work long-term.

The financial settlement can also cause disputes to develop, especially in high-net-worth divorce cases.  However, court proceedings are viewed as a last resort in the English family law system, with an emphasis being made on supporting couples in working out financial settlements between themselves, or with the help of a mediator.

If a couple cannot agree on how to divide their marital assets, or one wishes to claim spousal maintenance and the other party disputes this, or there is a possibility that assets have been hidden, court proceedings may be inevitable.  However, in most cases, before the court will hear a matter, both parties will need to attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM).  Here, a mediator will inform the couple about the mediation process, its costs and advantages.  If they decide to proceed to court, the mediator will need to sign a formal document showing that mediation has been considered.

The granting of a Decree Nisi and Decree Absolute

A Decree Nisi is a document that shows that a judge, upon consideration of the couple’s petition, can see no reason a divorce should not be granted.

After the granting of a Decree Nisi, either party can ask the court to rule on matters relating to the division of matrimonial assets such as property, pensions and savings.  Prior to the granting of the Decree Nisi, the court is only able to deal with matters relating to maintenance.  In most cases, the parties will present the court with a Consent Order, which is a document drawn up by solicitors providing the details of the settlement agreement they have negotiated between themselves.

The Decree Nisi is normally sent to the parties’ solicitors.  After six weeks, a Decree Absolute can be applied for.

The Decree Absolute is the final part of the divorce process, and upon it being granted, the marriage is officially ended.

Why instruct a family law solicitor when getting a divorce?

It is possible to obtain a divorce without instructing a solicitor; however, by doing so you risk agreeing arrangements for your children and the separation of your finances that may not be in your best long-term interests.  Contrary to what is portrayed in movies and the media, many family law solicitors, especially those that belong to Resolution or practice Collaborative Law, are committed to helping couples resolve any disputes relating to their divorce in a calm, compassionate, respectful manner.

At Hart Reade, each of our family law solicitors are members of Resolution.  In addition, many of our team are Collaborative Lawyers.  Both these organisations advocate for using non-confrontational methods for resolving family law disputes.

We can provide you with a wealth of information, advice and support regarding obtaining a divorce.  To talk to any of the family law team, please call us on 01323 727 321.

Please note, this article does not constitute legal advice.