The Process of Divorce in the UK
A divorce, also agreed upon by both parties just as ‘I do’ at the beginning of marriages, is not as simple as saying the ‘I do’. Instead, the whole process of divorce can be traumatising enough as soon as one or both parties decide ‘I don’t’ and realise that the marriage is now running on borrowed time.
Since the whole process of a divorce can be very difficult to navigate, keeping in mind the emotional and financial tolls that courthouse battles can make on both parties, it is very important to decide how much of ‘your lives’ do you want to spend on the whole process.
Whether you saw this coming or are reeling from a sideways blow, it is very important to know the basics of the whole process of getting a divorce.
There are nine key stages of divorce in England and Wales. Procedures followed in Ireland and Scotland have some small differences. This article discusses the basics of these key stages of a divorce process in the UK.
Eligibility Requirements of getting a divorce in UK
The government of UK has set up some rules for divorce eligibility for locals and immigrants. In order to be able to file for divorce in the UK, you need to meet one or more of the following conditions:
You need to have been married for at least a year;
Both parties have decided that the relationship has ended and do not want to opt for separation instead;
Your marriage needs to have been legally recognised in the UK (this includes the same gender marriages also);
Either one or both parties should have UK nationality or passport; or
The UK needs to be at least one partner’s permanent home;
In case both partners agree to compromise for the sake of their children or financial issues, but no longer want to maintain the marital relationship, they can chose to go for legal separation instead of a complete divorce. Also, you can also choose to annul the marriage.
The Process of Getting a Divorce in the UK
The process of divorce is a lengthy procedure which takes a lot of time especially if complex financial issues and courthouse battles are involved. This roadmap will serve as a guide for you for the rocky road ahead:
Stage I: The Divorce Petition
In order to initiate the divorce proceedings, the petitioner needs to start by filling and submitting the divorce petition form D8. However, the eligibility for submitting the form D8 is an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. Also, the parties must mention one of the five reasons listed as ‘Grounds for Divorce Proceedings’. These include i) unreasonable behavior, ii) adultery (applicable in case of heterosexuals), iii) two years of separation with consent, iv) five years separation, or v) desertion.
*Note that the petition for divorce cannot be filed in the first year of your marriage.
Stage II: Court’s Response to the Petitioner
After a successful filing of the petition, the court sends a matrimonial order application and other documentation to the spouse of the applicant or the petitioner (legally, the other spouse will be called as the ‘respondent’).
Stage III: Acknowledgement of Service to the Court
Following the second stage of divorce proceedings, the respondent needs to send back the acknowledgement of service form that they need to complete and return within 7 days.
The acknowledgement of service form sent to the respondent, after being completed and returned indicates that the respondent has: i) received the divorce papers; ii) agree with the reasons for divorce and wording used, iii) agrees to the divorce and wants to contest it.
Stage IV: Confirmation of Acknowledgement to the Applicant/Petitioner
After receiving the acknowledgement of service by the respondent, the court will then send a copy of the acknowledgement of service form to the petitioner or applicant.
Stage V: Respondent’s Opportunity to Oppose
This article is an opportunity for the respondent to oppose the divorce or some of its conditions if they do not agree with the divorce terms and conditions as stated by their spouse. So, if the respondent wants to oppose, they should do so within 21 days of receiving the acknowledgement of service and send the court an Answer to a divorce petition through the form D8B.
With that said, the respondent can also choose to begin their own divorce proceedings using any of the five ‘Grounds for Divorce’ as mentioned, as an applicant/petitioner themselves. However, in case the grounds are manipulated or lied about against their spouse, they would be charged with heavy penalty by the court.
Stage VI: Applying for Decree Nisi by Petitioner
Once both parties have successfully agreed on the terms, the next step is to apply for the decree nisi by the petitioner. This is an official ‘Request to Proceed’. The petitioner needs to fill out the D84 form for Decree Nisi, in addition to submitting the copy of the respondent’s response to the divorce petition and a written statement form signed by the petitioner stating the facts about the divorce decree.
Stage VII: Granting of Decree Nisi and Costs Order
Once the petitioner has submitted the decree nisi and the respondent does not have any objections to it – and the judge agrees on the grounds of divorce stated in the decree, there is no reason to not proceed with the divorce.
Both parties will then receive a court order stating that the decree nisi has been granted.
In addition to this, the judge will also issue a costs order stating who would be responsible for meeting the petitioner’s divorce costs. Both parties will have the chance to argue about the terms of costs when the decree nisi is announced in the court.
The divorce is not granted unless decree absolute is pronounced which is only after 6 weeks have passed until the announcement of decree nisi. This gives both parties ample time to agree to or change the terms of divorce decree.
Stage VIII: Applying for Decree Absolute
The divorce cannot be officially pronounced as complete until the period of 6 weeks and 1 day has passed after the pronouncement of the decree absolute. After the prescribed time, the petitioner has to officially lodge for an ‘application for decree nisi to be made absolute’.
Stage IX: Pronouncement of Decree Absolute by the Court
The final step of the divorce will be the pronouncement of decree absolute. This is only made after both parties have agreed to the decree nisi AND the petitioner sends the court an Application for decree nisi to be made absolute. Once the decree absolute is granted by the court, the divorce is officially marked as complete.
Although you can carry out all the steps of filing for a divorce decree and all the above steps on your own by getting online forms such as form D8, form D8B and form D84 – assembling the right team of experts to help you achieve the best possible outcome for your divorce proceedings can be hectic and risky. You need to be represented correctly and not leave your divorce decree to unprofessional.
In order to get the best possible outcomes out of your divorce, you need to seek counsel of our experts of family and divorce law at Branch Austin.