With the stresses of the festive period over, a new year brings the opportunity for a fresh start. For some, this could be a new challenge such as losing weight or conquering a fear, while for others, this could mean taking the first step to separation.

If the latter is you, and you and your spouse are considering separation and divorce this year, you won’t be the only ones right now. January is notoriously one of the most common times of the year for divorce enquiries. There is no definitive reason why but a combination of the increased time spent together, and with each other’s families, alongside the stresses of trying to create the “perfect” Christmas may play a part.  Once the festivities have died down, some couples choose the New Year as a chance to start afresh and take the first step in their new lives apart.

So, where do they begin?

How to Begin Divorce Proceedings

It is advisable that as soon as you have made the decision to separate, you seek legal advice from a divorce law specialist at the earliest opportunity. They will be able to check, firstly if you are eligible for a divorce and, secondly, which grounds for divorce apply to your situation.

To be eligible for a divorce in England and Wales:

  • You must have been married for more than a year and

  • Your relationship must have permanently broken down and

  • England/Wales must generally be the permanent home of you or your spouse

Grounds for Divorce

As of the 1st January 2020, your grounds for divorce must fall under one of the following facts:

  • Adultery

  • Unreasonable behaviour

  • Desertion (of at least 2 years)

  • Separation of at least 2 years (if you both agree)

  • Separation of at least 5 years (if your spouse disagrees)

Making Arrangements before a Divorce

Before you apply for a divorce, you should try to make arrangements with your spouse as to how your money and property should be divided and how any children you have will be cared for. This could be relatively straightforward if your decision to split is an amicable one. If, however, you and your spouse are struggling to come to an agreement over any of these areas, mediation is an option.

Applying for a Divorce

If you have instructed a divorce law specialist to assist, you should give them the following information:

  • Your spouse’s full name and current address

  • Your original marriage certificate or a certified copy or certified translation

  • Proof of any name change since marriage – for example, a deed poll

They will then submit your divorce application, along with the appropriate fees on your behalf. The application is then checked and, if correct, you will be sent a notice that your application has been issued alongside a stamped copy of your application as well as a case number.

Your spouse will also be sent a copy of the divorce application and an ‘acknowledgement of service’ form. They will then need to respond to the application within 8 days stating whether they agree with the divorce, intent to defend it, or object to paying any costs you’ve claimed.

If your spouse agrees with the divorce, you can then instruct your solicitor to apply for a decree nisi. If your spouse intends to defend the divorce application, they will need to submit an ‘answer to divorce’ form within 28 days. If they have not submitted this within 28 days, you can then apply for a decree nisi. If they do submit the ‘answer to divorce’ form, you may be required to attend court to discuss the case. If you find yourself in this situation, it is important to speak with a divorce law specialist in order to better understand your position and rights.

Applying for a Decree Nisi

A decree nisi is a document from the court stating that they see no reason why you and your spouse cannot divorce. In the application for a decree nisi, you must complete a statement telling the court that what you said in your divorce petition was true. The relevant statement for you will be based on which fact you chose as your grounds for divorce.

Your solicitor will help you to ensure you have all of the correct paperwork to ensure there are no delays to receiving your decree nisi.

If the judge agrees with your application, you and your spouse will receive a certificate which will advise you on the date and time at which your decree nisi will be granted. (If your decree nisi is refused, your solicitor will advise you on the next steps.)

The granting of a decree nisi does not complete the divorce. You then have to wait at least 43 days until you can apply for the next step which is a decree absolute. In the meantime, if you want a legally binding agreement detailing your financial settlement, you will need to apply to the court.

Applying for a Decree Absolute

A decree absolute is the final step of a divorce and must be applied for between 43 days and 12 months of receiving your decree nisi. You will need to complete a ‘Notice of Application for Decree Nisi to be made absolute’ form which your lawyer can once again assist you with.

When the court receives your application, they will consider whether the time limits have been met and whether there are any other reasons not to grant the divorce. Once a decision has been made, a decree absolute will be sent to your lawyer. You will need to ask for a copy as this will be needed to prove your marital status and if you choose to remarry. Once you have a copy of your decree absolute, you are officially divorced.

While there are many factors specific to your situation that can determine the divorce process and the time it takes to complete, the above is a simple run down of the main steps involved in a divorce. To discuss your divorce with a specialist or to instruct us to act on your behalf, contact one of our experienced divorce lawyers on 0845 287 0939 or send your query through our online contact form.