The Process Of A Divorce

Although divorce is a commonplace occurrence these days, few people going into their first divorce have much idea about how the process operates. In this article, we detail with the procedure involved during the process of divorce. The procedure for the dissolution of a civil partnership is essentially the same, as are the grounds for claiming irretrievable breakdown – with the exception that adultery is not listed as a reason for irretrievable breakdown in civil partnerships.

The basic requirements for obtaining a divorce in England and Wales are that a couple must have been married for a year, the marriage must be legally recognised under UK law and it must have broken down irretrievably. Irretrievable breakdown must be demonstrated to the Court by one of five reasons or ‘grounds’;

  1. Adultery
  2. Unreasonable behaviour
  3. Desertion
  4. Two years’ separation with consent or
  5. Five years separation without consent.

Usually, if both parties want to be divorced quickly, then the most common ground on which to proceed is unreasonable behaviour. This is used when there has been no adultery and the parties wish to avoid the delay that is caused by the last three grounds.

Unreasonable behaviour can be evidenced by, for example, violence or mental cruelty as well as more subtle complaints such as the exercise of unreasonable control. In order to support the claim of unreasonable behaviour, one party must agree to give a brief description of the behaviour in the divorce petition.

It is useful to understand the outline of the process of some of the legal terminology. The party to the marriage who commences the application, or petition, is known as the petitioner while the other party is called the respondent.

The petition for divorce is delivered to, or served on, the respondent. The respondent then has 29 days in which to either admit that the petition is true or to defend the divorce – although defended divorces are fairly unusual. The respondent agrees by returning an affidavit, a signed statement of truth, to the Court.

Usually, a district judge will then decide on the date of a decree nisi, which is the first step towards the formal divorce. Six weeks after the date set for the decree nisi, the petition can apply for the decree absolute. Once this is granted, the divorce is final. If the petitioner does not apply for the decree absolute, the respondent may do so three months after that date.

It is beneficial if arrangements concerning any children from the marriage and the split of family assets are agreed without having to go to Court. However, it is important to have good legal advice even if these decisions are made amicably. The Court will always suggest medication first in order to reach a mutually acceptable agreement between the parties.

In total, the divorce process is likely to take between 5 and 8 months to complete. However, it will take longer if there are disagreements over children or money which cannot be settled without the intervention of the Court.

If you require any further legal advice relating to divorce or any aspect of family law, please do not hesitate to contact us on 01536 276300 or email