Family law is perhaps the most personal area of your life on which you will receive advice from a solicitor. Stress levels will be substantially reduced when some of the uncertainty is removed and you have a better understanding of the process you are considering embarking upon. This guide to the divorce process or civil partnership dissolution is intended to help explain the likely stepping stones you should expect and highlights some of the time frames as well as considerations to attain your goals.
Firstly, you must of course be married/registered for twelve months or more before you are able to seek dissolution.
There are five grounds to proceed with divorce/dissolution these are:
- Unreasonable behaviour – where one party considers the other has behaved unreasonably.
- Desertion – where one party has intentionally been absent for two years or more.
- Separation – where the parties have lived separate and apart for five years.
- Separation – where the parties have lived separate and apart for two years with the other party providing consent.
- Adultery – (this is not relevant to civil partnerships).
To start the process, a document known as the Divorce Petition is completed and filed at your local Family Court. This petition will set out at least one of the five grounds set out above. A court fee of £410 is currently required together with your marriage certificate. In certain circumstances this fee can be reduced and we will always try to negotiate fees and costs with the other party.
The court will send a copy of the petition to the respondent (the other party) together with an Acknowledgement of Service form, which the respondent must complete, sign and return to the court within the required deadline currently, fourteen days.
The Acknowledgement of Service invites the respondent to confirm whether they agree to the divorce and/or any costs claims that you may make.
There are separate measures that can be taken if the respondent fails to respond, which include personal service to allow you to proceed to the next stage whether your spouse has replied or not.
We follow the Law Society guidelines and resolution protocol – this provides that we will engage your partner in dialogue. As a conciliatory approach we find this often helps tremendously.
Once the divorce is acknowledged (if it is not disputed) the petitioner is able to apply for the Decree Nisi, being the first decree of divorce. This is done by completing a statement verifying that the facts of the petition are true and correct. The completed acknowledgement of service is exhibited to the statement and the document is sent to the court together with an application for the pronouncement.
The court sends out notification of the date of pronouncement to both parties. Pronouncement is made in open court where the parties’ full names are read out, to give an opportunity to anyone who has any objections to raise them at this time. Any applications for costs are also given consideration.
It is quite usual for the petitioner to claim their legal fees and court fees from the Respondent either partially or in full. The court will have regard to these claims if the claims for costs are not agreed.
Even after pronouncement of Decree Nisi the parties remain legally married.
There is no court fee payable for this stage of the process.
Once the Decree Nisi is pronounced, six weeks and one day afterwards the petitioner can apply for the Decree Absolute, to dissolve the marriage.
Once the Decree Absolute is pronounced the parties are legally able to remarry. Seek advice before taking such a huge step forward. It is always advisable to address the financial links between you and your spouse before gaining new ones!
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