Divorce Procedure

Our divorce procedure guide highlights the key aspects to note that will provide you with an idea of the timetable and course of action to expect. Be reassured that most divorces progress without difficulties and without the need to attend Court.

Who can start divorce proceedings?

Anyone who has been married for over one year can start divorce proceedings, providing that one or other of the couple is either domiciled in England and Wales when the divorce proceedings have begun or has been resident in England and Wales throughout the period of one year ending with that date. It is irrelevant where the couple were married.

On what grounds can a divorce petition be started?

There is presently only one ground for divorce in England and Wales and that is that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. To establish an irretrievable breakdown in the marriage the Petitioner (the person starting the divorce) must prove one of five “facts”.

What are the five “facts”?

1. That one party has committed adultery and as a result of such adultery the other person finds it intolerable for them to continue living together.

2. That one party has behaved in such an unreasonable manner and as a result of such unreasonable behaviour the other person finds it intolerable for them to continue living together.

3. That one party has deserted the other for a continuous period of two years or more.

4. That the parties have been living separately for two years or more and both parties agree to the divorce.

5. That the parties have been living separately for five years or more. The consent of the other party is not required.

Only fact 4 needs the other spouse’s formal consent on the divorce papers, but in practice it is easier and avoids delay if the parties have agreed that the marriage has broken down. Hopefully, this will ensure that the divorce is not defended and that time and legal fees are reduced.

If your marriage has irretrievably broken down and one of the five facts applies please see the summary of stages below as to what happens next.

Stage 1

Preparing the papers - Petitioner’s responsibility (including arrangements relating to children and what is required to start divorce proceedings).

Stage 2

Starting the proceedings (including the formal divorce “issue” process and allocation of case number, the return of the acknowledgement of service by the Respondent and what happens if the acknowledgement of service is not returned to the Court).

Stage 3

(a) The divorce is being defended

Stage 3

(b) The divorce is being undefended

Stage 4

Applying for the decree absolute of divorce (including if you will have to attend Court at any time and how long the divorce will take).


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