I have made a decision to proceed with a divorce.

  • Do I need my spouse’s permission?
  • When can I issue the Petition?
  • What will happen at our first meeting?
  • Do I need to attend court?
  • Should I change my Will?

Sadly more than one in three marriages breakdown and the decision to divorce will be one of the hardest you ever need to make. To reassure you, however, the divorce process itself can be reasonably concise and dignified if handled by an experienced solicitor from the issue of the divorce petition through to the Decree Absolute. It is often the resolution of a financial settlement that can lead to understandable complexities and negotiations between the parties and their solicitors.

A divorce can be obtained either with or without the agreement of your spouse, although agreeing is usually the best approach where possible. The permission of the other spouse is rarely required if you are determined to proceed.

In order to obtain a divorce you must have been married for at least 12 months prior to issuing the petition and must be able to demonstrate that your marriage has irretrievably broken down. The process of obtaining a divorce is nevertheless relatively straightforward.

At your first meeting with Blackdown Family Law Solicitors, we will discuss the reasons for the breakdown of the marriage and whether you feel it can be saved. A referral to Relate or a counselling service can be recommended if you think that this would help. If you consider that a divorce is the best way forward for you then clear advice on how it will affect you, the likely timescale and the estimated cost will be provided at the outset.

We will ask you for certain information when we first meet you, such as the arrangements that you would like for your children, in terms of where they should live and contact plans. We will also ask you for details of yours and your partner’s finances so that we can provide you with outline advice about a settlement and discuss the way forward.

Divorce is usually a paper-based process from the issue of a divorce petition to Decree Absolute when the divorce becomes final. It is unlikely that you will need to attend Court as this is only required in exceptional circumstances and we will advise you if these arise.

Upon receiving the Decree Absolute, it may be necessary for you make a new Will unless your existing Will was made in contemplation of a divorce. In fact, it is important that you consider making a new Will as soon as you decide to separate.

1. Grounds for Divorce

  • Can I have a divorce based upon irretrievable breakdown?
  • Do I need to prove some facts to achieve a divorce?
  • Can I have something other than a fault based divorce?

To obtain a divorce in England and Wales, it is necessary to prove that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. Irretrievable breakdown can be established by proving one or more of the five facts of divorce as follows:-

  • Your husband or wife has committed adultery and you find it intolerable to live with them.
  • Your husband or wife has behaved in such a manner that you cannot be reasonably expected to live with them.
  • Your husband or wife has deserted you for a period of 2 years or more.
  • You have lived apart for 2 years and you both agree to there being a divorce.
  • You have lived apart for 5 years or more. In these circumstances your spouse’s consent to the divorce is not required.

Accordingly, unless you or you spouse have lived apart for 2 years or more, to proceed with a divorce in England and Wales, it is necessary to show some form of fault, i.e. either adultery or unreasonable behaviour.

2. Divorce Procedure

  • Can you summarise the procedure?
  • How long will it take?
  • What briefly are the various steps?
  • What does Decree Nisi and Decree Absolute mean?

For most people the divorce procedure is very straightforward. Usually no attendance is required at court by you, your spouse or by your divorce solicitor. The entire process takes approximately 4 – 6 months from the beginning to the end, although in most divorces the process can take nearer to 12 months taking into account the time it often takes to resolve the financial aspects of the divorce.

Nearly all of the steps in the divorce are dealt with by the person who starts the divorce process (the Petitioner). The other person (the Respondent) takes very few steps.

The procedure is as follows:-

  • Divorce Petition – this document is lodged with the Court to start the divorce process. The original marriage certificate also needs to be filed with the court. Where there are children, a document called a Statement of Arrangements for Children must also be completed and filed with the court. There are also some additional accompanying forms.
  • Acknowledgement of Service – the Respondent will be served with a copy of the Petition and a copy of the Statement of Arrangements if there are children. The Respondent then needs to complete a short form called the Acknowledgement of Service (which will also be supplied) in which they confirm they have received the Petition.
  • Decree Nisi – once the Respondent has completed the Acknowledgement of Service and returned it to the court, the Petitioner can then apply for the Decree Nisi of divorce. It will be necessary for the Petitioner to swear a short affidavit confirming the contents of the Petition under oath. That affidavit accompanies the application to the Court for the Decree Nisi.

Decree Nisi is pronounced in open Court, although it is not necessary for anyone to attend.

  • Decree Absolute – the Decree Absolute is the final decree of divorce and the Petitioner can apply for this a minimum of 6 weeks and 1 day after the pronouncement of the Decree Nisi. If a financial settlement has not been agreed, the application for Decree Absolute may be delayed until that settlement has been reached. This is because there can be certain disadvantages to finalising a divorce in the absence of a financial settlement and we will explain these to you at the appropriate time.


John C. Turner, the Principal of Blackdown Family Law Solicitors, is a highly skilled solicitor who has dealt with divorce on a daily basis for over 22 years. He will advise you on the most cost effective and efficient way of proceeding with the divorce taking into account all of the circumstances of your case. He understands that divorce can be an emotional and a testing time for all those involved and is there to help shoulder the burden for you so that you can begin the process of rebuilding your life.

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Areas of Family Law Work
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