The breakdown of a marriage can be a deeply distressing time for the whole family. Many people believe that the current laws surrounding divorce are outdated and whilst change is on the horizon, it is important that divorcing couples fully understand the current divorce process before embarking upon it.
There is only one ground for divorce, namely the irretrievable breakdown of your marriage. Irretrievable breakdown has to be proved with one of five facts:
1. That the Respondent has committed adultery and the Petitioner finds it intolerable to live with the Respondent
2. That the Respondent has behaved in such a way the Petitioner cannot reasonably be expected to live with the Respondent.
3. That the Respondent has deserted the Petitioner for a period of two years immediately before the start of the divorce.
4. That the parties have lived apart for a continuous period of at least two years immediately before the start of the divorce and the Respondent consents to the divorce being granted.
5. That the parties have lived apart for a continuous period of at least five years immediately before the start of the divorce.
Whoever starts the divorce proceedings will be known as the petitioner and the other spouse will be known as the respondent. In most cases the procedure will be as follows:
1. The Petitioner sends the petition to the Court
2. The Court issues the petition and sends a copy to the respondent with an acknowledgment of service
3. The respondent signs and returns the acknowledgment of service to the Court
4. The petitioner applies for decree nisi
5. The Court pronounces decree nisi (and any order for costs)
6. The petitioner applies for decree absolute
Once decree absolute has been issued the marriage is legally at an end.
Those considering a divorce need to be aware that whilst the procedure itself is relatively straightforward (although this can become more complex if the respondent does not cooperate) it can take many months, if not years for matters to be concluded, particularly if there are financial matters that also need resolving. It is therefore important that parties are realistic about timescales, particularly if they are planning to remarry.