When you feel your marriage is over, and the only way forward is to take legal steps to end it, it can feel overwhelming. Knowing how to move forwards can be particularly tough if it involves children, a shared home and tangled financial arrangements. It will also be an emotional time.
So, what are the stages of divorce, and how can you start the legal process?
Seeking Advice & Help
It is best to find a lawyer who specialises in this area. They can guide you through the legal steps needed and ensure that your best interests are represented.
For the purposes of divorce, you will be referred to as “the petitioner” – which is a legal way of saying it is you who is requesting this legal end to your marriage.
What Are Grounds For Divorce?
Even in the first stages of divorce, your legal adviser will need a lot of information from you. You will need to be ready to answer some searching and possibly personal questions. They will use this information to “petition” the courts, based on a reason of why you are entitled to a divorce.
In law, there is an established set of reasons called “facts” on which divorces can be based. You will need to provide information to show that your petition falls within one of these facts.
One is adultery, which can include things that happened after separation as well as when you lived together.
Another fact is “behaviour”, often called “unreasonable behaviour”. Common examples of behaviour are financial recklessness or domestic abuse. Your legal adviser can help explain this in more detail, as you will need to set out details of your spouse’s behaviour that show that the marriage has broken down irretrievably.
Another fact is desertion if your spouse left you two or more years previously and you’ve not had contact with them since.
You could also petition to end your marriage after a two-year separation, if both parties are in agreement. If your partner does not consent to the divorce, the separation would need to last five years, after which your partner would have no choice.
What Happens Next?
Once your petition for divorce has been submitted, the court sends a copy to your partner. They will be asked to complete an Acknowledgement of Service form. If this is not done, they will be legally served with a copy of the divorce petition to prove receipt.
What are the stages of divorce that follow? Once your spouse agrees to the divorce (which happens in most cases), you would apply to the court for a decree nisi. A decree nisi is an acknowledgement that you do have a legal basis to end your marriage. Lack of consent from your spouse could cause a delay in granting the decree.
Six weeks after the Decree Nisi, you can apply for Decree Absolute, the Final Decree. It is only then that your marriage is dissolved and you are finally divorced.
On average at the moment it is taking about 8-9 months to complete all the stages.
There may be reasons why you decide not to apply for Decree Absolute as soon as you can. There may be arrangements for the children to sort out or you may need to obtain a financial settlement, especially if there are pensions involved.
If you are struggling with issues within your marriage or considering applying for a divorce, we can help you. Call Bowsers on 01945 583 194 for informative and non-judgmental advice. You can also download our guide on The Divorce Process by clicking here.