Understanding the divorce process
Divorce can be a stressful time for both parties and so it is important to understand the divorce process and the various stages it involves.
First, check whether you can begin divorce proceedings. You can get a divorce if you live in England or Wales and your marriage has broken down permanently if you have been married for a minimum of twelve months. The marriage must be recognised under the law in the UK, including same-sex marriages and you must have an established home in England or Wales.
Different rules may apply in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Alternatives to divorce include a legal separation which means living apart without an end to the marriage or you may be able to annul the marriage.
To avoid the costs of court hearings to deal with child arrangements, maintenance payments and shared property or money, parties will need to reach an agreement on these matters as well as the reasons for ending the marriage. A mediation process will help with coming to an agreement on these issues.
Grounds involved in the divorce process
As the law stands you will need to show your marriage has broken down, giving one of five reasons. These include adultery although you cannot give this as a reason if you lived together for six months after the plaintiff discovered it.
The next reason is unreasonable behaviour, where one party has behaved in a manner which makes it unreasonable to expect the other to continue in the marriage. This can include physical or verbal abuse, drug taking or drunkenness or refusing to financially contribute to the household.
The grounds of desertion indicate that a partner has left the household without good reason for more than two years within a two year and six month’s period.
Evidence of these three grounds will have to be provided in the petition.
If you have been separated for more than two years and both parties agree to the divorce, it will be granted. You could be separated even if you live in the same household provided that you can prove that you are living distinct lives under the same roof.
If you have been separated for more than five years you may apply for a divorce even if your partner refuses to consent to the process.
The UK Government is currently looking at amending the divorce process and introducing no fault divorces in the future.
Applying for the divorce process
You will need to have the original marriage certificate, your partner’s full name and address and proof of any name change; usually your marriage certificate or a deed poll document. If you identify the person with whom your partner committed adultery, they will also receive a copy of the paperwork.
A fee of £550 is payable on an application for divorce in the Family Court. You will be able to find the appropriate court locally.
If the divorce is not defended, you can make an application for a decree nisi, which will confirm that the court sees no reason for the divorce not to be granted. If it is defended, you will have to attend court where a judge will consider the merits of your case.
The final part of the divorce process is a decree absolute which will end the marriage and can be awarded after 43 days from the date of issue of the decree nisi. You must make an application for the decree absolute within 12 months or explain the reason behind the delay to the court.