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An Overview of the Steps in Obtaining a Decree Absolute
Divorce for a Petitioner
13th October 2017
The following steps have been briefly outlined for a petitioner who wishes to petition for a divorce and there are no children (under the age of 18) involved in the marriage and no financial orders are required.
Step 1: Initial Checks:
a) Have you been married at least one year?
You cannot apply for a divorce until you have been married for at least 1 year.
b) Are you entitled to get divorced in England (and Wales)?
To get divorced in this country you must show that you have sufficient connections with England or Wales. The Court will want to know that you are either: a) living in England or Wales (known as residence) or b) regard England or Wales as your home country (known as domicile).
You should meet one of the requirements below:
a) You and your spouse both have your permanent homes (known as domicile) in England and Wales when the divorce petition is started; or
b) You and your spouse are both living in England and Wales when the divorce petition is started; or
c) You and your spouse both had your last home in England and Wales and one of you must still be living in either of these countries when the petition is stated; or
d) Your spouse must be living in England or Wales when the divorce petition is started; or
e) You must have been living in England and Wales for at least a year on the day the divorce petition is started; or
f) You must have your permanent home in England or Wales and have been living in either of these countries for at least six months on the day the divorce petition is started
c) Do you have a sufficient reason for the Court to grant you a divorce?
You have to provide the Court with a reason for the divorce – these reasons are known as the ‘grounds for divorce’.
For a divorce application to be successful, you must show that the marriage has irretrievably broken down by establishing one of the following five facts as proof:
a) Adultery of the other spouse;
b) Unreasonable behaviour
c) Desertion by the other spouse after two years;
d) Separation with consent after two years;
e) Separation without consent after five years.
Step 2: Locate your marriage certificate:
You will need your marriage certificate as you will have to file it at Court when you commence your divorce petition.
If you’ve lost/misplaced your marriage certificate or it has been destroyed, you will be able to obtain a certified copy of your marriage certificate from the General Register Office at: https://www.gro.gov.uk/gro/content/certificates/default.asp
If your marriage took place outside of England and Wales, you will need to get a certified copy of your marriage certificate from the country where you were married.
Step 3: Start your divorce petition in Court
Even though you can file your divorce petition in any divorce County Court, it is beneficial to you if you choose a Court which is most convenient to you.
Pay the fee
You must pay a £550.00 fee to start a divorce.
You may be able to get help with fees if you’re on benefits or a low income, the requirements for this can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/get-help-with-court-fees
Step 4: Give notice of the divorce petition to your spouse
Once your divorce forms have been completed, the next step is to serve the divorce petition on your spouse before filing this at a divorce County Court.
You should think about sending a draft petition to your spouse and discussing the contents of the draft petition with them before issuing the petition to prevent any unnecessary unpleasantness.
This can be done by simply proving your spouse with a reasonable time frame to respond to you, you can provide your spouse with this time frame in a letter, should you not receive a response from your spouse you can file your petition at Court.
Sending the divorce petition to your spouse is the responsibility of the Court, but it is your responsibility to ensure that you have provided the Court with the correct address for your spouse for service.
The Court will send you a Notice of Issue of Petition once the divorce petition has been sent to your spouse. This usually occurs about a week after you file your divorce petition in Court however may take longer.
The Court will at the same time post a copy of your divorce petition to your spouse (and any named co-respondent) with an Acknowledgement of Service Form for your spouse to complete.
Your spouse, as the Respondent, has seven days from the day the petition was received by them to return the Acknowledgement of Service.
Step 5: Handling your spouse’s response to the divorce petition
Once your petition is posted to your spouse, one of the following events may occur:
a) The petition may not be responded to, i.e. it was not delivered or received by your spouse:
b) Your spouse acknowledges service and intends to defend against divorce.
c) Your spouse acknowledges service and doesn’t intend to contest the divorce
Step 6: Applying for Decree Nisi
To apply for Decree Nisi you need to make an Application for a Decree Nisi and provide a Statement in Support of Divorce/Dissolution/Judicial Separation. Your completed application and statement in support of a Divorce would need to be filed with the Court.
Step 7: Getting your Decree Nisi granted
Your complete file will then be examined by the Judge, who will consider whether your documents are satisfactorily completed and the Judge will assess whether you have grounds for divorce.
Your Decree Nisi will be sent by the Court to you, your spouse (and any co-respondent) shortly after the Judge decides that you have satisfied the requirements for divorce.
Pronouncement of your Decree Nisi usually takes about two months from the date you first file your Application for a Decree Nisi.
If Decree Nisi is granted:
If the Judge agrees to the divorce, the Court will send you and your husband/wife a certificate. This will tell you the time and date you will be granted a decree nisi.
After the decree nisi has been granted, you’ll have to wait six weeks and one day before you can apply for a ‘decree absolute’ to end the marriage.
If your application is rejected:
You may be sent a ‘notice of refusal of Judge’s certificate’ form, saying why you cannot divorce.
You are not divorced until you have obtained a decree absolute.
Step 8: Obtaining your Decree Absolute
The decree absolute is the legal document that ends your marriage.
If you are the petitioner, you need to wait at least six weeks and one day after the date of the decree nisi before you can apply for a decree absolute.
Apply within 12 months of getting the decree nisi – otherwise you will have to explain the delay to the Court.
Getting the decree absolute:
The Court will check that:
a. time limits have been met
b. there are no other reasons not to grant the divorce
The Court will then send you both a decree absolute.
Once you get the decree absolute, you are divorced, no longer married and free to marry again if you wish.
Keep the decree absolute safe – you will need to show it if you remarry or to prove your marital status.
Sonika Patel is a Solicitor in Aston Brooke Solicitors’ Family Law Department. To discuss anything in this article or for specific legal advice on your case, please contact her on +44 (0)203 475 4321, and she or a member of our team will be able to assist you.
Disclaimer: this article is for general information purposes only. It does not present a detailed statement of the Law and does not constitute as legal advice. This is a summary only, and legal advice should always be sought on an individual case basis.