Divorce Process: How to start Proceedings

In Divorce Breakup advice

The end of a marriage is never easy to go through, but the divorce process itself doesn’t have to be complicated. This clear guide will take you through the legal steps necessary to get a divorce.

1. Do you have grounds for divorce?

You must have been married to your husband or wife for at least a year before you can file for a divorce. You must also decide on what grounds you are going to file for divorce. Learn more about this step with our article on Grounds for Divorce.

2. Making arrangements with your spouse

To make the divorce process easier, it is much better if you and your husband or wife can agree on several issues that come with a divorce. This includes the reason the marriage has broken down. If you have children, the most important thing to decide on is any childcare arrangements or child maintenance payments. You must also decide what happens to your finances and property after you have split up.

If you want to make any of these arrangements legally binding, you can ask the court to do so. If you can’t come to any agreements, you can also ask the court to make arrangements on your behalf. This will usually involve attending a court hearing so you should contact a solicitor as soon as possible.

3. Starting Divorce Proceedings

To file for a divorce you must send an application to a County Court. You must complete and send in 3 copies of the D8 divorce petition form, this must include:

  • Your name and address
  • Your spouse’s name and address
  • The grounds you are using for divorce

To file for a divorce you must send the correct paperwork to a regional divorce centre. Find your closest centre here

As part of starting divorce proceedings, you will also have to include an official copy of your marriage certificate and pay £550 in court fees. To pay the fees, you can either include a cheque, or arrange for the divorce centre to call you to pay by card over the phone.

If your spouse committed adultery with someone, you can include their name and address. But it is not recommended to do so as you will then have to include them in the paperwork.

What happens next?

Once you have filed for divorce and your paperwork has been processed, your spouse will usually have 8 days to respond to your divorce petition. In their response, they will have to accept it or defend it. Sometimes the respondent might start their own divorce proceedings as well.

Once the court sees no reason that you can’t get divorced (this might include a court hearing if you can’t come to an agreement with your spouse), they will grant you with decree nisi. After 6 weeks, you can then apply for decree absolute and are legally divorced.

4. Responding to a divorce petition

If a divorce petition has been filed against you, as the respondent, you usually have 8 days to reply to the petition. If you don’t respond within the given period, the divorce can often go ahead anyway. To respond you must complete and send to the court an acknowledgement of service form in which you can either agree or disagree to the divorce.

  • If you agree to the divorce, return the acknowledgement of service form and the divorce will go ahead.
  • If you disagree with the divorce you have 21 days to explain why you are defending it, known as ‘giving an answer’. Fill in and return an answer to a divorce petition form. You will usually have to pay £245 in court fees.

If you filed for divorce and your petition is defended, or if both you and your spouse file for divorce, there will usually be a court hearing which you will have to attend. The court will try to arrange an agreement over the divorce.

When you’re defending a divorce petition or your petition is being defended, you should contact a divorce solicitor immediatelyThe process can become complicated and so an experienced, legal professional will be able to guide you through the necessary steps and explain how the law works.

5. Applying for a Decree Nisi

Decree nisi is the document that shows the court has found no reason why you can’t get divorced. To get decree nisi pronounced, you must fill in and return the application form to the court. If the judge agrees that you can get divorced, both you and your spouse will receive a certificate with the date from which your decree nisi begins.

You can still apply for decree nisi if your husband or wife is defending the divorce but you will have to attend a court hearing before it will be granted. In the decree nisi form, you must request a case management hearing and will have to pay a further £50 in court fees.

If a judge rejects your application, you may have to reapply with more information or go to another hearing. The rejection certificate will tell you what to do next.

6. Applying for Decree Absolute

Once decree nisi is granted, you must wait 6 weeks before you can finally end the marriage. This is called applying for decree absolute. To do so, fill in the decree absolute form and send it to the court. The fee for this part of the process is included in the initial petition fee.

You must make sure you wait no longer than 12 months once you have been granted decree nisi to apply for decree absolute, or you might have to explain the delay. If your wife or husband began the divorce proceedings but has not applied for divorce absolute, you can apply instead after an additional 3 months.

7. Childcare and finance arrangements

If you have children with your spouse you must work out their childcare arrangements as well as any child maintenance payments. You must both also decide how you want to split your money and possessions. If you can’t agree, or if you want to make these arrangements legally binding, it is vital that you contact a solicitor. If you want the court to decide, you must say so in form D8.

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