Divorce

We understand that most of our clients seek our advice about getting divorced as a last resort after the breakdown of their relationship, and it is often an extremely difficult time.  We will always listen with empathy and without judgement, and help you understand the divorce process and your rights. Whether you have already decided to apply for divorce, or are just thinking about your options, we can talk to you about your next steps.

How do I get a divorce?

The divorce process involves several steps:

1. Divorce Petition

To start the divorce process, an application, known as the divorce petition, must be filed. You must have been married for at least a year to apply for divorce.

The partner who makes the application is known as the petitioner, and the other partner is the respondent. The respondent will have the opportunity to challenge the application for divorce if they wish to do so.

Until 6 April 2022, only one partner can file the application and must give a reason from the current legal grounds: adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion, or separation for at least two years (five years if your partner does not agree to the divorce). From 6 April 2022, it is expected that a new law will take effect, allowing separating couples to apply jointly and without allocating blame to either party.

2. Decree Nisi

After the divorce petition has been filed, the respondent must complete an acknowledgement of service form. The petitioner can then apply to the Court for decree nisi – at this stage the couple are still legally married or in a civil partnership, but it is acknowledged that the grounds for a divorce have been established. A decree nisi must be granted before the Court can approve any financial settlement.

3. Decree Absolute

After the decree nisi has been granted, the petitioner must wait at least 43 days before applying for the decree absolute. This is the final stage of the divorce process – your marriage or civil partnership will legally end once the decree absolute is granted. It is important to ensure that you have an appropriate and legally binding settlement agreement in place before the decree absolute is finalised.

Do I need a solicitor to get divorced?

Not necessarily. Anyone can apply for divorce, and the online application will take you through this process step by step. There are also resources available online which will provide more detailed information about how to represent yourself. There are however some parts of the divorce process where it may be worth taking advice from a legal expert, for instance if there are financial aspects of the marriage that need resolving, such as property, savings, businesses, pensions, and incomes.

How much does it cost to get divorced?

There is a court fee of £550 to issue a divorce application.  If you are on a low income or in receipt of benefits you may be eligible to apply to be remitted from paying part or all the court fee.

The court fee is paid by the party who is applying for the divorce when submitting the application with the court. The parties can come to an agreement themselves as to how this is funded. Some parties choose to split the cost equally. In some circumstances you can ask the court to make an order for costs that the respondent in the relationship is ordered to pay.

There will be additional legal fees if you choose to use a lawyer to manage your divorce process, or to negotiate and prepare a financial settlement.

Does the decree absolute end any financial claims from our relationship?

The important thing to remember is that a divorce only ends the marriage (the legal relationship). Getting a divorce does not end the financial relationship created as a result of the marriage.

To legally end the financial relationship, a ‘clean break’ consent order is required. For this to be legally binding it needs to be submitted and approved by the court. A clean break consent order ends all future financial claims against each other, most significantly any claim on death. It should be noted that if you remarry, any future claims will be affected if you have not already obtained the consent order.

Can we agree the financial aspects of the divorce ourselves?

Yes. There are many ways of coming to a resolution regarding your finances. Some people come to a private agreement, whilst others may choose to attend mediation which can support you in your communication. Some people choose to take legal advice and use solicitors in the negotiations, and some resort to using the court process to help them to reach a conclusion.

It can be tempting to save costs by making the financial agreement yourself, but there are a number of risks that are worth considering before making this decision. The main point to remember is that any agreement between you is not legally binding until it is approved by the court.  For a court to approve a financial agreement (consent order) it does require limited disclosure of each parties’ finances.

Will I need to attend court to get a divorce?

If all parties are cooperating with the divorce process, then there is no requirement for anyone to attend court and it will be dealt with as a paper/online process.

If an application is issued at court for financial orders, then it is likely that you will be expected to attend court for hearings until the proceedings reach a conclusion by way of agreement or order from the court.

What is the difference between divorce and dissolution?

Divorce is the process for legally ending a marriage, and dissolution is the process for ending a civil partnership. The process for getting a divorce and dissolution is very similar.

What is the difference between divorce and annulment?

Annulment is an alternative to getting divorced if you can prove that the marriage is void or ‘voidable’. Unlike divorce, you can annul a marriage within the first year. Grounds for annulment include if one of the parties was under 16 years old or is already married, or if the parties are closely related. You can also annul a marriage if you did not properly consent to it, the marriage wasn’t consummated, or if one partner was pregnant by someone else or had a sexually transmitted disease when they got married.

Contact us to discuss your case with a member of our separation and divorce team.

The Team
Amy Jeffery
Amy Jeffery

Associate Member of the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives

Anita Laws
Anita Laws

Chartered Legal Executive

Mark Fairchild
Mark Fairchild

Administrator

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