The divorce process
If you want a divorce you have to work out how your situation fits with what the law says are acceptable reasons for divorce. The previous page sets out the 'grounds' for divorce and what the legal terms mean.
One of you will have to be the person who asks the court to grant a divorce. The other will have to be the ‘respondent’. You can’t ask the court for a divorce together, even if you both want it. Most couples manage to agree who will ask for the divorce, even though it is seldom only one person’s fault. But this can be difficult because it looks like the one of you is to ‘blame’ for the breakdown of the relationship. This can be hard for them, even though it shouldn’t make any difference when decisions are made about money or the children. You will need to discuss this as sensibly as you can. If you can both agree about it, your divorce will be much smoother and probably quicker.
Once you have decided who is going to ask the court for the divorce, look below to see what will happen. Whatever your reason for divorce, the process (if undefended) is the same.
In this case, Red and Blue have decided to divorce. They have agreed that Red will file a petition based on Blue’s behaviour, and Blue has agreed not to defend it.
This is how the proceedings go, step by step.
If they had no children, it would start at stage 3.
- Red (or more usually Red’s solicitors) complete a form telling the court about the proposed arrangements for the children and send it to Blue to sign.
- Blue agrees the details on the form, signs it and sends it back.
- Red or Red’s solicitors send the divorce petition and the children’s form to the Court for ‘filing’.
- The Court checks the papers, gives Red’s case a number, and sends the papers to Blue.
- Blue completes the answers to the questions on the acknowledgement of service form and sends it back to the Court.
- The Court photocopies the acknowledgement of service form and sends Red (or Red's solicitors) a copy.
- Red or Red's solicitors complete the forms to ask the case to go ahead. Red has to swear a statement saying the petition is true.
- The forms are filed at the court and Red asks the court to fix a date for the Decree Nisi.
- The District Judge reads the file. If it is all in order, the court fixes a date for the Decree Nisi and issues a certificate that approves the arrangements for the children.
- Letters confirming this go to Red and Blue.
- The Decree Nisi is issued. A copy is sent to both Red and Blue
- Six weeks and one day after Decree Nisi was issued, Red can apply for the Decree Absolute by sending a form to the Court. (If Red does not apply for the Decree Absolute within 3 months, Blue can apply. Red has to be told about this and can oppose it.)
- The Court checks the file and issues the Decree Absolute, sending a copy to both Red and Blue.
- They are finally divorced.
How children and financial issues fit in
While the divorce proceedings themselves are going on, issues about money or children can be sorted out. These often get sorted out without going to court, particularly questions about children. If you do have to use the court, these matters are dealt with separately. So you will never, for instance, have a judge hearing arguments about children and the money at the same time.