Separating from a partner is always hard and the dissolution of a marriage perhaps even more so as couples have to work their way through the legal process involved in securing a divorce, as well as decide what arrangements to make for any children of the marriage and how to divide their assets.
Fiona Yellowlees, Partner in the Family Department at WBW Solicitors in Newton Abbot, explains the legal steps you need to take to obtain a divorce and how a solicitor can help.
Grounds for divorce
You can only file for divorce if you have been married for one year or more and your marriage has irretrievably broken down. This ground is established by proving one or more of five facts: adultery; unreasonable behaviour; two years’ desertion; two years’ separation (with consent); or five years’ separation (no consent required).
Filing a petition
The first step in the divorce process is to file a divorce petition with a regional divorce centre, together with the court fee and your marriage certificate (translated into English if required). The divorce petition should outline why your marriage broke down.
Acknowledgement of service
The court will then send a copy of your divorce petition to your spouse who will need to complete and return an acknowledgement of service form within seven days. This confirms your ex-partner has received the divorce papers, is content with the grounds for divorce, and confirms whether they agree to the divorce or plan to contest it.
Apply for decree nisi
Your next step in the divorce procedure is to apply for the decree nisi which will be granted if the judge has pronounced that there is no reason why the divorce should not be granted.
Apply for decree absolute
Once you have a decree nisi pronouncement date you can apply for a decree absolute after six weeks and one day. An application for a decree absolute usually takes around two weeks. When this is granted, your marriage is formally and legally ended. We would never advise applying for Decree Absolute until financial aspects are resolved as rights can be lost when Decree Absolute is made and financial responsibilities to the your spouse do not end.
How a solicitor can help
You should always consider taking legal advice from a specialist family law solicitor before you start the divorce process. They can help you decide which of the five facts for divorce you want to use, explain what evidence you need to back this up and answer any questions.
They can speak to your ex-partner and their solicitor, so you do not have to and represent you in court if required. If you cannot agree with your spouse whether to get divorced or why you are getting divorced, they can mediate between you to help you reach an agreement without having it imposed by the court.
They can also help you and your ex-partner decide what arrangements you should make for dividing your assets and sharing care of your children.
This article is for general information only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Please note that the law may have changed since this article was published.