Family law

A simple guide to getting divorced

While we all hope that our marriage will last forever, sometimes relationships break down completely and divorce becomes inevitable. When that happens, you need an experienced divorce lawyer to help guide you through the stages.

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What steps do I take to get a divorce?

First and foremost, it's important to understand that the word 'divorce' refers only to the official ending of a marriage contract. There are other issues that need to be considered and dealt with when you divorce, including the division of property, financial support and arrangements for any children of the marriage.

This brief guide simply explains the main rules and key steps to for ending your contract of marriage.

What are the grounds for divorce in England and Wales?

While the government is currently considering the introduction of a 'no-fault' divorce law to help reduce family conflict - the only 'grounds' for divorce are that your marriage has 'irretrievably broken down'. This can be due to the following five reasons:

• Adultery: Where you can prove that your spouse has had a sexual relationship with someone of the opposite sex during your marriage

Unreasonable behaviour: Where your spouse has engaged in behaviour that you couldn't reasonable be expected to tolerate. Examples of this include committing verbal or physical violence, drug taking or drunkenness or refusing to pay towards household costs

Desertion: Where your spouse has been absent for more than two years in the last two and a half years, without good reason, without your agreement or simply with the intention of bringing your relationship to an end

You have lived separately for more than two years: This enables you to seek a divorce if both of you agree to it

You have lived separately for more than five years: This enables you to seek a divorce even if your spouse doesn't want to get divorced

How do I start divorce proceedings?

This is done by completing a divorce petition, which asks for information about you and your spouse.

If you’re conducting this task and starting the divorce proceedings, from this point you’ll legally be known as the 'Petitioner', and your spouse as the 'Respondent.'

Our divorce experts can help you to complete the divorce petition and will also advise you on the best ways to minimise costs and conflict in the divorce proceedings.

Our initial consultation costs £99, for 30 minutes, where you’ll gain clarity on the process and the options available to you. We also offer a competitively priced, fixed-fee divorce for just £540 + £593 court fees.

How do I avoid conflict when divorcing?

Emotions can run pretty high during this time, whatever the reasons behind your wish to divorce. That's why in most cases our divorce specialists will advise you to talk to your spouse before you actually file the petition at court. This will avoid them getting such a shock when they receive a copy of the petition in the post, and also gives you the chance to get their agreement in advance.

If you can do this, it can save a lot of time, argument and money. Contested divorces can be both time-consuming and expensive.

How do I apply for a decree nisi?

If your spouse doesn't contest the divorce – or after they have cross-petitioned if they are unhappy with your version of the reasons for the divorce – your divorce lawyer will apply to the court for a declaration called the decree nisi.

The declaration says that the court sees no reason why you shouldn't be granted a divorce but isn't the final word on the matter: that's called a decree absolute.

When can I apply for a decree absolute?

Once your decree nisi has been received, you need to wait six weeks and one day before your solicitor can apply for a decree absolute. Once the court receives this, they can pronounce the decree absolute, which means that you are no longer married and are free to marry again.

Sometimes, if you are also dealing with financial matters, it may be best to wait until there is a financial agreement before you apply for the decree absolute.

What do I do when I receive a divorce petition?

If your spouse decides to divorce you, you must legally be informed of this by receiving a copy of the petition in the post. Whether you want to contest the divorce or not, it's often a good idea to speak to a divorce lawyer at this point.

Some people choose to 'cross-petition' at this point, meaning that you also wish to divorce but won't accept the claims made against you in your spouse's divorce petition.

Even if you're happy for the divorce process to run its course, it's a good idea to speak to an expert divorce lawyer at this point, particularly if there are any financial assets or children that you are going to need to reach an agreement about with your spouse.

How long will my divorce take?

Even the most amicable divorces take from four to six months from the initial divorce petition to the decree absolute stage. However, where one party wishes to contest the divorce or simply drag the process out while financial settlements are agreed, it can take over a year, or even longer in some cases.

Why choose Slater and Gordon's divorce lawyers?

Even when a divorce is by mutual agreement and you wish to remain friends - if only for the sake of any children – divorces can become complex when it comes to things like division of property, financial support and child arrangements.

Our family law experts have all the experience you need to support you throughout the divorce process. Just as importantly, they are firmly committed to minimising conflict and expense wherever possible. Call us now on 0330 041 5869 or contact us online today and we will call you.

Prices quoted on this page include VAT.

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