According to the Office of National Statistics, about one-third of marriages in the UK result in a divorce. Going through a divorce can be a very stressful time for everyone involved. There can be a lot of paperwork as well as the emotional stress of the divorce itself. Any additional pressures can make the process even more difficult and this is why it is a good idea to know where you stand regarding the divorce process.
When somebody decides that they want to get a divorce, they would send a divorce petition to the court. This will formally start the divorce proceedings and can often become the beginning of a long and emotionally difficult process.
It is sometimes the case that the Petitioner (the person who has sent off the divorce petition) may become delayed in the next step for a range of different reasons. These can include the person needing more time to think about their decision, ill-health, or perhaps the couple attempting reconciliation.
As part of the Family Proceedings Rules 2010, it is stipulated that there is no time frame to divorce proceedings. The government is always keen to help couples to stay together as much as possible. This means that any delays to the process are not held against you and that the petition does not ‘expire’. At this point, the responsibility of proceeding with the case is on the Petitioner and they will not be ‘chased’ by the court.
Delays in the progress of the divorce petition
Although delaying divorce proceedings will not usually go against you, there are some cases where it may. For example, if you have put through a divorce petition, which has then been set aside whilst a marriage has continued, you could be looked upon unfavourably as an abuse of process, or the Petitioner viewed as not being clear of the breakdown of the marriage when they first put the petition through.
The divorce process in the UK
It is important to note that the divorcing process is different if you are in England and Wales than if you are in Scotland or Northern Ireland. The process of seeking a divorce in England is as follows:
1. If you are married and feel that the marriage is no longer feasible, the first thing that should be done is to make sure that you are certain about your decision. Before you decide to go through with the divorce process, you should ensure that you have done everything that you deem to be possible to save the marriage, including seeking marriage guidance services or counselling.
2. If you have tried this to no avail and no improvement in the marriage, you should then check if you can get a divorce. The law in England and Wales stipulates that you must:
- Have been married for at least a year
- Be sure that your relationship has permanently broken down
- Have the marriage legally recognised in the UK
- Have the UK as you or your spouse’s permanent home
You will then need to give a reason for the petitioning of the divorce. This needs to be one of five reasons:
- If you or your spouse has committed adultery.
- If your spouse has shown unreasonable behaviour – these can include physical or verbal domestic violence, not paying towards household expenses, or alcohol or drug abuse, for example.
- Desertion – your husband or wife has left you for over two years.
- You have been separated for over two years – this is possible even if you have been living together. Your spouse will need to agree in writing.
- You have been separated for over five years – this reason can be given even if your husband or wife disagrees.
If you can, you should then try to decide what will happen with your children, money, and property. You can ask for mediation and advice for this if you need to. If you can agree on this before you file your divorce petition, you can often avoid having to go to court.
3. To apply for a divorce, you will need:
- Your husband or wife’s full name and address for the copy of the divorce petition to be sent to
- An original or certified copy of the marriage certificate
- Proof of your name change if you have changed it when you married
You will then need to pay a fee of £593, and you can apply either by post or online.
4. Once that the petition has been received, you will be sent:
- A notice that the application has been issued
- An issued copy of your application
- A case number
A form will be sent to your husband or wife who will be asked to sign it saying that they agree to the divorce and that they agree to pay any costs if you have claimed them. If they agree to sign this form you can then apply for a decree nisi – a document that says that the court cannot see why you cannot divorce.
You may still apply for a decree nisi if your spouse does not sign the form, but you may need to provide evidence of service.
5. If the judge agrees to you getting divorced, you will then be sent your decree nisi certificate. It is important to note that at this point you will still be married. You will only be officially divorced after you have received your decree absolute, which can be applied for 6 weeks and 1 day after your decree nisi has been granted.
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