The mechanics of obtaining a divorce are usually quite straightforward - particularly if the couple agree that the marriage is over. Any difficulties are usually in resolving issues stemming from the divorce such as how to separate, where to live, arrangements for the children and money matters. Contact James Muir-Little, Head of Family Law, on 0845 603 1057 for further information and to arrange an initial FIXED FEE INTERVIEW at one of our offices, Canterbury, Chatham, Whitstable or London.
For many people getting divorced will be the first time that they have been involved in court proceedings. Coming to see a Divorce Lawyer may even be the first time that they have any contact with a solicitor.
As your divorce lawyers we hope that you will feel that you are being advised by experienced specialists. As importantly we believe that we are here to listen to your concerns and guide you through the court proceedings without making them seem unnecessarily complicated.
Your attention will probably be concentrated on your children and your financial future and the process of actually obtaining the divorce may seem unclear. It may therefore be helpful to outline a broad framework of the divorce process, to highlight key points and to set out the sort of timetable to expect.
9.1. After one year of marriage.
Either spouse may start the divorce. He or she is referred to as the 'Petitioner'. The petition and statement of arrangements about the children are completed and then sent to the Court together with the marriage certificate. A fee, currently £340, is payable unless the Petitioner is being advised under the Legal Help Scheme or has limited resources.
9.2. Within a few days of sending the petition to the Court.
The Court sends a copy of the petition and Statement of Arrangements to the other spouse referred to as the 'Respondent'. A copy of the petition is also sent to anyone named in the adultery petition. That person may be referred to as a 'Co-Respondent'. If the Respondent (or Co-Respondent) has instructed solicitors, the petition may be sent to them.
9.3. From the date the documents are received the Respondent has strict time limits to observe.
a. Within 8 days
He or she should send to the Court a form called the 'Acknowledgement of Service' which accompanies the petition. The form asks the Respondent whether they intend to defend the petition, whether any claim for costs is disputed and whether orders affecting the children are to be sought.
b. Within 29 days of receipt (longer if the documents have been sent to an address abroad) whether or not an acknowledgement has been filed, the Respondent must, if he or she intends to defend the petition, file a Defence (called an "Answer"). The petition then becomes defended and the procedure outlined below does not apply. Defended divorce proceedings resulting in a fully contested hearing are very rare. However, a delay in finalising the divorce is inevitable.
Whether or not an acknowledgement has been filed, the Respondent must, if he or she intends to defend the petition, file a Defence (called an "Answer"). The petition then becomes defended and the procedure outlined below does not apply. Defended divorce proceedings resulting in a fully contested hearing are very rare. However, a delay in finalising the divorce is inevitable.
9.4. Within a few days of receiving the Acknowledgement of Service from the Respondent (and Co-Respondent) the Court sends to the Petitioner's solicitors a copy of the form(s) of Acknowledgement of Service.
9.5. If the Respondent is not defending the petition, the Petitioner can apply for the Decree Nisi to be pronounced.
The Petitioner's Solicitors prepare an Affidavit for the Petitioner to swear confirming that the contents of the petition are true. It will also state whether any circumstances have changed (including those relating to the children) since the filing of the petition. The Petitioner will swear the Affidavit before a solicitor or Court Official and it will then be sent to the Court with the request for a date for the first decree of divorce ('Decree Nisi') to be pronounced.
9.6. If the Acknowledgement of Service is not returned to the Court?
Proof that the Respondent and any named Co-Respondent have received the petition will have to be obtained before the Petitioner can take the next step. This may involve arranging for someone to deliver the petition to the Respondent and any named Co-Respondent personally or, exceptionally, obtaining a Court order that proof does not need to be given that the Respondent and Co-Respondent have received the petition. This is called "dispensing with service".
9.7. On receipt by the Court of the application and Affidavit a date is fixed for pronouncement of the Decree Nisi. The District Judge looks through the papers and if they seem in order, gives a certificate for the Decree Nisi to be pronounced. Both the Petitioner and the Respondent (through their Solicitors) are then advised of the date fixed for Decree Nisi. Depending on the Court's diary, the date is likely to be a few weeks after the application is lodged. The couple do not have to attend Court.
9.8. What normally happens with regard to the children?
If agreement has been reached, the District Judge is unlikely to interfere.
If agreement has not been reached, the District Judge may ask the Petitioner and the Respondent (accompanied by their Solicitors) to attend an informal appointment to explore a solution to the difficulties. The District Judge may also ask for a Court Reporting Officer to become involved. If a solution cannot be reached, this can delay the application for the final decree of divorce.
9.9. If the arrangements in relation to the children are settled between their parents:
a. 6 weeks and 1 day after the date of Decree Nisi, the Petitioner may apply for the final decree ("Decree Absolute") by sending the appropriate form to the Court. This step is not automatic. This Decree will be processed and may be available as quickly as the same day. A further fee of £45 is payable at this stage in all cases.
b. 3 months after the Petitioner could first have applied for Decree Absolute the Respondent may apply for the Decree Absolute if the Petitioner has not already done so.
I also wanted to thank you for all your help and support over the last year and a half, you and Susi have been great and helped me keep my sanity!
Mrs G, Client of Naomi Hayward and Susi Gillespie