Getting divorced is always a sad and stressful time for the couple concerned. However, once a couple have reached the conclusion that a divorce is the only option, having a clear understanding of what is involved in the divorce process and adopting a planned approach will help towards minimising the stress and anxiety. In this article, we provide a straight-forward guide to the various steps that need to be taken to start and complete a divorce, assuming it is uncontested (ie: both parties agree to divorce).
Step 1: File for divorce
To start the divorce process, one of the couple (known as the ‘petitioner’) will need to complete a ‘divorce petition’. This form is referred to as a ‘Divorce/judicial separation petition (Form D8)’ and is used to specify a number of details, including the reason you want a divorce, and the name of your spouse (known as the ‘respondent’) and whether or not you have children. If you do have dependent children, you will also need to complete a form known as a ‘Statement of arrangement for children (Form D8A)’ and send it along with your divorce petition to the court (you can find a divorce court near to you through www.direct.gov.uk).This is known as ‘filing for divorce’.
Once the court has received your divorce petition, it will send a copy of it to your husband or wife, together with another form known as an ‘Acknowledgement of service (Form D10)’. Your spouse will have to complete and return this form within seven business days before you can go onto the next stage of the divorce process.
Step 2: Apply for a ‘decree nisi’
Assuming your spouse agrees to the divorce, the next step is to apply for a ‘decree nisi’. This involves the ‘petitioner’ completing of an ‘Application for a decree nisi (Form D84)’, as well as a ‘Statement in support of divorce’, which is used to confirm the reason you want a divorce. By law, there are only five reasons you can cite for wanting a divorce and each has its own form. You will need to complete one of these:
• Statement in support of divorce – adultery (Form D80A)
• Statement in support of divorce – unreasonable behaviour (Form D80B)
• Statement in support of divorce – desertion (Form D80C)
• Statement in support of divorce – 2 years’ consent (Form D80D)
• Statement in support of divorce – 5 years’ separation (Form D80E)
The court will review your application and statement and if it is satisfied that there are indeed grounds for the divorce, will send you and your spouse a ‘certificate of entitlement to a decree’. This lets you know the date and time when a judge will grant your decree nisi (you don’t have to actually attend court for this).
Step 3: Apply for a ‘decree absolute’
Once you have received your decree nisi, you can apply for a ‘decree absolute’, which will officially bring your marriage to an end. The form needed for this part of the process is a ‘Notice of application for decree nisi to be made absolute (Form D36)’. If the judge is satisfied that there is nothing to stop the divorce being finalised (financial issues or arrangements for children, for example), a decree absolute will be issued to you and your spouse. At this point, you will be legally divorced and able to re-marry should you wish to.
Take a look at our Divorce Law Centre to learn more about the divorce process and how you can get a divorce online.