There are five grounds for seeking a Divorce in the English legal system – adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion, two years’ separation with consent and five years’ separation. Once a party to a marriage has settled upon a valid ground for a Divorce, the initial steps that must be taken are as follows:-
- The person requesting the Divorce (known as “the Petitioner”) must complete the application form, known as the Petition. If there are any relevant children involved, then the Petitioner must also complete a form known as a “Statement of Arrangements for Children”.
- Once these forms have been completed, the Petitioner must then file them at their local County Court, together with any appropriate fee. That fee is currently £300, but can be waived if the Petitioner’s financial circumstances dictate.
- Once the forms and the fee have been lodged at Court, the Court will then issue the Petition and will send a copy of it (and a copy of the Statement of Arrangements for Children, if appropriate) to the other party to the marriage (known as “the Respondent”). At the same time, the Court will notify the Petitioner that the Petition has been issued. The Court will also notify the Petitioner on which date the forms were sent to the Respondent and the date by which the Respondent must reply to the Petition.
- The Respondent has fourteen days to reply to the Petition. If they do so, a copy of their reply will be sent to the Petitioner. Once the reply has been received, the Petitioner has to swear a Statement on oath (known as an “Affidavit”) in support of the Petition. This is usually done in front of a Solicitor. Once sworn, the Affidavit is then filed at Court together with an application for a formal Court Order known as a Decree Nisi.
- The Decree Nisi is declared by a Judge at a formal hearing. There is usually no need for the parties to attend. Once the Decree Nisi has been pronounced, the Petitioner has to wait a minimum of six weeks and one day before they can apply for the final Order, known as a Decree Absolute. Such an application incurs another Court fee, this time of £40. Once the Decree Absolute has been pronounced, the parties are legally divorced and both are free to remarry.