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How to get divorced

At Hawkins Family Law, we understand that the process of getting divorced – from completing the divorce petition to applying for Decree Absolute (the final stage of the divorce) – can be confusing. In this article we take you through the various steps required in order to get divorced.

How to get a divorce

In order to apply for a divorce, you must complete a divorce petition.  This can either be done through a solicitor (who will make a charge for completing the paperwork), via the online portal or by posting the divorce petition (otherwise known as a Form D8, which you can get online) to your closest Divorce Centre.  There is a court fee for applying for a divorce, which is currently £550.

In the petition you will need to confirm what fact you are relying on (more information on this can be found in our article about Grounds for Divorce) and provide your details, along with those of your spouse.  The court will require a copy of your original marriage certificate – if you are submitting your petition by post, you will need to send your original marriage certificate with the petition and you will not get it back. If you are applying online, you will need to upload a colour copy of your marriage certificate. If you do not have your marriage certificate, then you can apply for a certified copy online for a small fee.

The petition will also ask whether you want to ask your spouse to contribute towards your divorce costs.  The court can order your spouse to pay all or part of your divorce costs (including your solicitor’s fees). It is usual for divorce costs to be split evenly between the parties, but if you are basing your petition on unreasonable behaviour or adultery, you may want the court to order that your spouse pays all of the costs.  We often advise trying to agree this in advance, as a court hearing to deal with divorce costs is often more expensive than simply paying your own costs.

Once you have sent off the divorce petition, the court will consider the divorce paperwork.  Providing everything is in order, a copy of the document will be posted to your spouse by the court, and they will also let you know when it was sent to them. Along with the divorce petition, the court will provide your spouse with an Acknowledgment of Service Form (D10) for them to complete and return to the court – more information on what an Acknowledgement of Service is can be found below.

How long does a divorce take?

This is very difficult question to answer.  It often depends on how quickly the courts are dealing with applications – it can sometimes take longer when the courts receive a large number of applications.  Roughly – from start to finish – a divorce takes around 4-6 months.  However, it is always advisable to sort out financial matters (by way of a financial consent order sealed by the court) before the divorce is finalised in order to ensure that you and your spouse are not left in a vulnerable position. As it can take some time for a financial agreement to be reached, it is common for divorce proceedings to take longer than 4-6 months.

How to get divorce papers?

As mentioned above, a family law solicitor can handle all of the divorce paperwork on your behalf and will always have access to the most up-to-date forms. Alternatively, you can get a divorce petition online via the government website.

Can you get legal aid for a divorce?

Legal aid is no longer available for any legal costs in relation to a divorce unless there has been domestic abuse, violence or child abduction.

We do not offer legal aid at Hawkins Family Law, but you can check whether you are eligible for legal aid on the government website.

When can you get a divorce?

In order to be able to start divorce proceedings you need to have been married or in a civil partnership for at least a year. If you haven’t been married for a year, then there are alternatives that you can consider, such as a judicial separation.

Do you have to pay to get a divorce?

Regardless of whether or not you decide to instruct a family law solicitor to handle your divorce on your behalf, you will need to pay the court fee of £550.

If you do instruct a solicitor to deal with the divorce paperwork, then there will be additional costs on top of this. More information about costs in relation to divorce proceedings can be found in our blog, How Much Does a Divorce Cost. We would always recommend asking a solicitor for assistance with divorce proceedings so that all the paperwork is completed correctly, thereby avoiding any unnecessary delays.

Do I need a solicitor to get a divorce?

The simple answer is no. You can complete the divorce paperwork online yourself or use an online agent for a fee.  The Court fee of £550 is the same whatever route you choose.  Generally, the more important aspects of getting a divorce relate to sorting out your finances and any children arrangements. However, having a solicitor to deal with all the paperwork and correspondence with the court can help reduce the stress involved in the process at a time when emotions are already running high. A solicitor can also communicate with your spouse so that you don’t have to.

What do I do if my divorce application is rejected?

If your application is rejected, the court will write to you informing you why this has happened.  It may be that information is missing or clarity is required on specific issues.  They will let you know and usually you can write to the court to resolve this.

What is an Acknowledgement of Service?

An Acknowledgement of Service is the form that the Respondent in a divorce petition receives. It needs to be completed carefully as it is the reply to the divorce petition.  Sometimes a cost claim may have been made, and this will need to be addressed in the reply.

An Acknowledgement of Service form will also confirm whether or not the Respondent intends to defend the divorce.  Once completed, it must be sent back to the court and the court will provide a copy to the Petitioner.

If the Respondent (your spouse) does not complete the Acknowledgement of Service, then you need to consider how you can serve them with the divorce petition.  We usually suggest waiting at least 28 days (the court papers suggest 7 days, but this does not give your spouse very long).   If you have relied on 5 years separation or adultery, then you simply need to prove to the court that your spouse has received the document.  This can be done by having the documents personally served on them by way of a process server or court bailiff. If you are at all unsure about what to do if the Acknowledgement of Service hasn’t been completed and returned to the court, then it is best to speak to a family law solicitor, who can advise you on the options available.

Pronouncement of Decree Nisi

A Decree Nisi is the middle stage of the divorce (issuing the petition being the first). Once you have the sealed Acknowledgement of Service Form from the court – assuming that your spouse is not defending the divorce – you can apply for the Decree Nisi to be pronounced.  The application confirms you wish to apply for the middle stage of divorce and the court will ask you to identify the signature on the Acknowledgement of Service and confirm whether anything has changed since the divorce petition was prepared.

The court will then consider the divorce petition and the Acknowledgement of Service together with your application for Decree Nisi, and will decide whether you are legally entitled to a divorce.  If so, then they will list a date to pronounce the Decree Nisi (this will be provided in a document called a Certificate of Entitlement). You do not need to attend court for this, there is a dispute in relation to who is paying the divorce costs, and the court will inform you if you need to attend.  Providing everything is in order, the court will post you the Decree Nisi.

Decree Nisi confirms you are entitled to a divorce, but it does not mean that you are divorced yet.  It is important to obtain the Decree Nisi as it is only after this point that the court is able to consider any agreement reached between you and your spouse regarding the matrimonial finances.

Once the finances have been resolved, Decree Absolute can be applied for, thereby bringing an end to you marriage. Please read our blog, The Difference Between Decree Nisi and Decree Absolute for more information on the difference between the two. You may also find Does My Name Change When I Get A Divorce helpful.

Hawkins Family Law are family law specialists, which means we have years of experience with cases regarding divorce, family matters and more. If you are looking for reliable and accredited legal advice regarding your divorce or getting a divorce, speak to one of our team today.

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