In simple terms, divorce is the legal process by which the family court brings a marriage to an end. It does not resolve the arrangements for children, property or finances but all of these issues, which are often more complicated, can be dealt with separately alongside the divorce. Every divorce is different and our specialist solicitors will treat you as an individual not a “case”.
Despite newspaper headlines there isn’t such a thing as a ‘quickie divorce’ and the process itself will take at least 6 months. This can take longer if there are court delays, delays in receiving responses from the other person or if financial arrangements need to be finalised.
Either one of the divorcing couple can apply for a divorce as long as they have been married for at least a year and one of the divorcing couple has been resident in England and Wales for the year before the application for divorce is made. It is also possible to make a joint application for divorce. The original marriage certificate, or a certified copy, will be sent to the court with the divorce petition. If the marriage took place abroad or the certificate is in another language you will need specialist advice from our solicitors.
The person who starts the divorce, if it is a sole application, will be known as the Applicant. There were changes to divorce law on 6th April 2022 which mean you now only need to confirm that the marriage has irretrievably broken down and it is not necessary to assign fault to either spouse. It is hoped that this will help to remove hostility from the process allowing divorcing couples to focus on their children, resolving financial issues and themselves.
The other person, known as the Respondent, will be sent the divorce petition and other documents by the court. Once a divorce application has been issued there is a ‘period of reflection’ that has been built into the new divorce system by the new divorce laws. The idea of the period of reflection is to allow people to consider their decision and work through differences to see if they can reconcile but if the parties wish to divorce it can be used to reach a financial settlement and resolve arrangements for the children. The period of reflection means that the Applicant will need to wait for a minimum of 20 weeks between the divorce application and the court granting the Conditional Order (previously known as decree nisi).
The last stage of the divorce is when the Applicant applies for a Final Order (previously known as a decree absolute). This application is usually delayed whilst the financial arrangements are agreed or any court application for a financial order is finalised and approved by the Family Court.
The Applicant has to wait a minimum of 6 weeks between the Conditional Order and the Final Order. The Final Order brings the marriage to an end and has important consequences; including financial and not least in respect of wills. You also need to be aware of the “remarriage trap”. It is important that you seek individual, personal legal advice from our specialist solicitors.