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How to get divorced: a checklist

Divorce is a difficult and inevitably emotional topic. Ending your marriage means major changes and a great deal of disruption, no matter how welcome the end of a painful relationship may be. Settling your finances, explaining the situation to your children or just deciding who gets to keep what…it can all seem very daunting.

Sometimes it can be helpful to have a simple checklist to work with – a bullet point guide to the key stages. We hope the following proves useful.

  • Have you been married for at least 12 months? If not, you will need to wait that long before you begin divorce proceedings. Few people decide to call it a day within months of the marriage but it does happen on occasion.
  • Establish the basis for your divorce. Under current legislation, it is only possible to divorce on the basis of one of five ‘facts’ about your marriage. These are:
  1. Unreasonable behaviour
  2. Adultery
  3. Desertion
  4. Two years’ separation with the consent of your spouse
  5. Five years’ separation without the consent of your spouse

The ‘fact’ chosen will establish legally that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. However, do note that new legislation currently proceeding through parliament will, when it reaches the statute books, replace all five of these facts with a simple statement that the marriage has irretrievably broken down.

  • Discuss the draft divorce petition with your former partner and agree which ‘fact’ you would like to rely on. Agree between you who will be the Petitioner and who will be the Respondent. [NB: if there are international connections such as either of you living in another country or being domiciled in another country then you should take urgent advice before taking this step].
  • File a divorce petition at a designated divorce court stating why you wish to end the marriage. This will be one of the five facts listed above under current legislation – or the statement of irretrievable breakdown under the forthcoming legislation.
  • The divorce court will check your petition and ensure it has been completed correctly. They will then send you a stamped copy and case number.
  • At this stage it is normal to begin negotiating the practical aspects of your divorce – for example, arrangements for the children and family home, the division of your assets and the payment of any ongoing support.
  • When you are ready to do so, apply for a ‘decree nisi’. This is the penultimate stage in the divorce process and is the couple’s final chance to reconcile if they wish to do so. ‘Nisi’ is Latin for ‘unless’.
  • If no last minute change of heart is on the cards, the final stage in the process is the pronouncement of a ‘decree absolute’ – as the Petitioner, this can be applied for once six weeks have lapsed since the date of decree nisi. This marks the legal end of the marriage.

If you wish to discuss any aspect of this checklist, please feel free to contact Gail, Simon, Adam, Tricia, Sue or Jeremy on 01223 443333.