A description of the divorce procedure is set out below in the form of questions and answers.
To ensure we are the right solicitors for you, we are happy to offer a free initial telephone consultation to any prospective clients.
Who can start divorce proceedings?
Anyone who has been married for over one year, provided one spouse is either domiciled here or has been resident in England or Wales during the preceding six months. It does not matter where the couple were married.
The only ground for divorce is that the marriage has irretrievably broken down.
The breakdown is proved with a simple requirement to provide a statement of irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. This is the ‘No Fault’ divorce that came into effect 6 April 2022. There is no requirement to provide details of why the marriage has come to an end and it is not possible to provide such information in the divorce application.
If the marriage has irretrievably broken down, what happens next?
This will depend upon your particular circumstances, but in most cases the divorce application will be made jointly with your spouse. This does not have to be done in the same room as your spouse as you will each be contacted by email about the application. It can also be made by one spouse in a sole application if a joint application is not possible or appropriate. You and your spouse will need to agree how the Court fee will be paid and if it will be shared as there is no automatic process for applying for the other party to pay your legal costs of the divorce.
What does the application actually look like?
Every application follows the same form. It contains basic information about names and addresses of the parties, details taken from the marriage certificate and a statement that the marriage has irretrievably broken down, which is a tick box exercise. Most applications will be made online and in some circumstances they can be made on a paper form.
What about the children?
Children are not included in the divorce process at all. It is recognised that arrangements for the children’s care should not form part of the dissolution of the marriage contract. Those arrangements, if they cannot agreed by parents, will be dealt with entirely separately to the divorce.
How much does the divorce cost?
There is a Court fee of £593. Your additional legal fees for the divorce will then depend on whether you are a sole or joint Applicant, a respondent, or whether you plan to make the application yourself. We will provide you with a detailed estimate of costs once we have ascertained from you how the divorce is likely to proceed.
Are financial issues dealt with before the divorce is finalised?
It is usual practice to get the divorce started in the first place and then simultaneously address financial matters. This is primarily because a Conditional Order is required to conclude a financial settlement. In many cases the parties will agree to delay the Final Order until financial matters have been concluded. This provides various protections to the parties, all of which will be discussed with you.
Timetable for divorce proceedings
After one year of marriage.
Either spouse may start the divorce either jointly or as a sole application. He or she is referred to as the ‘Applicant’ ; (or ‘Applicant 1’ and ‘Applicant 2’ if a joint application.) The application is completed online or by paper and then submitted to the Court together with the marriage certificate. A fee, currently £593, is payable unless the Applicant(s) is/are being advised under the Legal Help Scheme or has limited resources.
Within a few days of sending the application to the Court.
The Court will issue the application. The general rule is that the Court will then serve the application. This will usually be by email together with a postal notification and will take place within 28 days. If a sole application the Court will serve the other spouse referred to as the ‘Respondent’. If a joint application, to the Court will serve both applicants.
From the date the documents are served by the Court.
Within 14 days of service
He or she should send to the Court a form called the ‘Acknowledgement of Service’ which accompanies the application. The form asks the Respondent whether they intend to dispute the application. There are only very limited circumstances where a divorce application can be disputed.
Within 35 days of service
If the Respondent wishes to dispute the application then he or she must fill out a paper form known as the ‘answer’ setting out their reason for disputing the application. There is a Court fee payable for filing an ‘answer’ of £245. It should be noted that since the introduction of the no fault divorce process, there are only very limited circumstance within which a Respondent can successfully dispute a divorce application.
20 weeks from date of issue of the application
If the Respondent is not disputing the application, the Applicant can apply for the Conditional Order.
What does a Conditional Order look like?
This is a document produced by the Court. At the top it will have details of the parties, the case number allocated by the Court and, the name of the Court dealing with the divorce. A statement will be included in the document that says the marriage: has broken down irretrievably. It will state the date that the Applicant can apply for the Final Order which will be six weeks from the date of the Conditional Order. There will also be a note on the conditional order that confirms this is not the final order.
If the Acknowledgement of Service is not returned to the Court or the Respondent refuses to engage with the process?
If an Acknowledgement of Service is not returned proof that it was received by the Respondent in the first place will be required which may involve arranging for someone to deliver the application personally or by obtaining a Court order that proof does not need to be given. This is called “dispensing with service”. The Applicant will then be able to take the next step regardless of whether the acknowledgment is returned or spouse co-operates.
On receipt by the Court of the application for the Conditional Order a date is fixed for pronouncement of the Conditional Order. The District Judge looks through the papers and if they are in order, gives a certificate of entitlement to a Conditional Order. Both the Applicant and the Respondent (through their Solicitors) are then advised of the date fixed for the Final Order. 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 as this process simply involves the Judge reading out the parties’ names in Court on this date.
What then happens?
6 weeks and 1 day after the date of Conditional Order : The Applicants either jointly or solely give notice for the Final Order to be made by sending the appropriate form to the Court. This step is not automatic.
In a Sole Application 3 months after the Applicant is able to apply for a Final Order. The Respondent may apply for the Final Order if the Applicant has not already done so. This is a more complicated process and is one on which legal advice should be obtained before making such an application.
What does a Final Order look like?
This document is produced by the Court. As with the Conditional Order it contains details of the case and the parties. The document will contain a statement that says that the marriage has legally ended. There will be notes on the document relating to effects on inheritance under a will and the appointment of a guardian.
Furley Page lawyers can guide you through your family breakdown
Our expert team of lawyers will guide you through the process to find a solution that is right for you and fair to all involved. Contact Rayma Collins to find out how we can help you.