No one wants a long drawn out divorce, and the easiest way to do that is to agree with your spouse on the details before the process begins. Agreeing to the divorce, as well as the separation of assets, any agreements with regards to childcare and the official reason for the divorce will speed things along.
If you are both on the same page, the process will move through quickly, and the cost will be minimal. Costs build up and time passes when your spouse counteracts or argues with each stage of the divorce, filling out further forms and incurring more charges.
Each stage will take a different length of time depending on how promptly documents are returned. However, it is worth bearing in mind that if you have been separated for two years or five years (living separately) the process should be much quicker.
Petitioning for divorce
Sending the petition is quite straightforward – you have to know your spouse’s address in order for them to be sent the petition, and you write down the reason for the divorce.
If the reason for the divorce is adultery, you have the option to list the name of the person your spouse cheated with. However, choosing to do this means that the person will also have to be sent a copy of the petition, and this can mean everything takes longer. If you need your spouse to remain in the dark about your current address, you can fill out a further form. This may also take a little more time.
Responding to a petition for divorce
Your spouse will have 8 days to respond to the petition. If they don’t, you can still go ahead, but it will take longer. In some cases, you may have to get proof that there has been an attempt to deliver it, like having it redelivered to their work address, or sending a courier. All of these elements will slow down the process.
Agreements and money matters
If you have already sat down with your spouse, either in mediation, or with a financial advisor or solicitors, and agreed how to split assets, or if the separation is very simple in this regard, then this next section will move quickly. Arguments, meetings and refusal to compromise when it comes to finances means the process will take more time.
A Decree Nisi is the acceptance from the courts that there is no reason you can’t divorce. You fill out an application for this and include the divorce petitions, signed by both parties. If your spouse doesn’t agree to the divorce (or the reasons listed on the petition) you will apply for a ‘case management hearing’ where you will need to supply documentation for anything you can’t agree on (you may need to show financial statements if you are disagreeing about splitting money, for example) and the case can have multiple stages, depending on how complex it is.
If everything is straightforward, the first directions appointment can be used to discuss financial matters. If things can’t be agreed and more information is needed, it can move to a final hearing. Ensuring all necessary paperwork is given to your solicitor will speed things up.
If you don’t need a case management hearing, and your decree nisi is granted, you will receive this in the post. This can take about two weeks if there are no issues, but it could be longer.
A Decree Absolute is the final dissolution of your marriage. You can apply for this 6 weeks and one day after the date on your Decree Nisi. It has to be completed within 12 months of receiving the Decree Nisi, or you will have to explain to the courts why you did not finish the process. Once your papers for the Decree Absolute have been submitted, the confirmation should be returned promptly.
It’s almost impossible to give a clear definition of how quickly a divorce can be finalised – if it is uncomplicated and uncontested, it can be completed within months, but if there are issues surrounding money, debts, property and children, you are likely to need a solicitor who can guide you through the process and help you ensure you get what you want from the separation.
Complicated cases can drag on, with multiple court hearings and paperwork being sent back and forth. Sometimes, in situations like this, mediation can be useful in determining the terms of your divorce.
It is easy to want to rush through a divorce if you are certain in your choice, but be sure to read all of the paperwork carefully, consider all assets and situations that need to be discussed with your spouse, and if at all possible, work to keep the process moving forward. Your solicitor will be able to give you updates on the progress of the divorce and will keep on top of any paperwork.