Coming to the decision you want a divorce is not something people come to lightly. Usually, one person has come to that decision a long time before their spouse, which is why it can often come as a huge shock. So we’re here to help you take that next step in how to get a divorce in England or Wales. We are going to explain this to you in simple terms, only using the legal jargon where necessary.
How to divorce
There are several legal requirements you need to consider before taking steps to get a divorce:
- You need to have been married for more than a year.
- Your marriage must be legally recognised in the UK (includes same-sex marriage)
- You must have a permanent home in England or Wales
Grounds for Divorce
Assuming that all legal requirements are met, the next step is to decide on one of five facts to support the marriage has broken down irretrievably. The reason cited for divorce are never made public, so you don’t need to worry about airing your laundry in public. Here are the 5 facts:
- Unreasonable Behaviour
- 2 Years Separation (both parties need to agree to divorce based on this fact)
- Desertion for 2 years
- 5 years Separation (both parties do not need to agree)
To get your divorce to proceed as quickly as possible, it’s best if you can both agree on the facts for divorce. If you dispute this, it will make your divorce more expensive and more time-consuming. So, a conversation with your partner is best, as it removes the element of surprise and shock when the divorce papers come through the post. Receiving unexpected divorce papers can antagonise anyone, especially if they are accused of causing the marriage to break-down. If you can decide upon who is the petitioner (person initiating the divorce) and who is the respondent (the person responding to the petition for divorce), it will save a lot of heartache and resentment between you.
Note: Choosing Unreasonable Behaviour as the grounds for divorce does require 5 separate reasons that the courts would consider unreasonable.
We can help you decide this.
What is required to divorce?
A certified copy of your marriage certificate is required to get divorced. If you can’t find the certificate, a copy can be requested either from the local Registry Office where you got married, or you can order a copy of your marriage certificate from GOV.UK. Copies will cost you £9.25. If you were married outside England and Wales and your marriage certificate requires translating, this must be a certified legal translation. The court will require this and original marriage certificate.
You will need to know the current address of your Spouse. If you don’t know, and can’t find out their address, you will need to prove to the court that you have taken every possible action to find out their address. This will include, writing to their last known address, phoning last known phone number, contacting friends and family, contacting them through their employer, searching social media etc. We can provide a tracing service too as a final attempt to locate them. The court will need to grant special dispensation in the case where your spouse cannot be located.
If you are in the UK as a dependent on your spouse’s visa, you will lose your visa status once your divorce is made final. You will need to check whether you can stay in the UK long term and tell the Home Office when you divorce or separate. You might need to apply for a new visa if you get divorced. If you don’t have the right to stay in the UK you might have to leave.
Apply for a divorce
The next step is to apply for the divorce by completing a D8 Divorce Petition form. We will complete this form for you. It requires:
- full names and addresses of both parties,
- the facts you are relying on for divorce,
- if you are citing adultery you can, but it is not obligatory, state the name and address of the person who your husband or wife committed adultery with (if adultery is your grounds for divorce)
- and marriage certificate.
The court will contact you to take payment of the court fees. This is currently £550. As legal aid is no longer available, a reduction in court fees is only available if domestic abuse can be proved or the petitioner is on benefits or a low income. Contact Us if you think you may be entitled to a reduction.
Upon receiving the stamped divorce petition, the court will send copies of the D8 petition to you, your partner and the named adulterer (if included). This process normally takes 2-3 weeks. During this period, the court will be requesting payment of the court fees.
The respondent needs to acknowledge receiving the petition by returning the “D10 Acknowledgement of Service” to the court. On this form, the respondent will need to confirm whether they are going to defend the divorce or not.
Once the court has received the acknowledgement, a signed copy will then be sent to the petitioner.
Decree Nisi Application
The petitioner will now need to file an application for a Decree Nisi (D80). A “D84 Statement in Support” needs to be sent with the application confirming details within the petition. You can still apply for a Decree Nisi if the respondent does wish to defend the divorce. It will require a court hearing to discuss the case. The judge will then decide whether to grant a Decree Nisi.
The judge will only grant a Decree Nisi if he is he has the power to do so and the marriage has irretrievably broken down.
At this point, the judge may refuse to give a divorce if he feels the facts are not sufficient.
Decree Nisi pronounced
A Decree Nisi is a document that says that the court doesn’t see any reason why you can’t divorce. It does NOT mean you are divorced yet.
After the Decree Nisi has been granted, you’ll have to wait 43 days (6 weeks and 1 day) before you can apply for a ‘Decree Absolute’ to end the marriage.
This 6 week and a day period is essentially a cooling off period. It is to ensure you are 100% sure that a divorce is what you really want.
Also, during this period, a Consent Order (if required) can be filed in court. Although not necessary, a Consent Order is a legally binding order, that details the financial division of assets. We thoroughly recommend getting a Consent Order, as it finalises the division of assets.
Decree Absolute pronounced
The Decree Absolute can be applied for 6 weeks and one day after the Decree Nisi has been pronounced. If the petitioner does not apply for a Decree Absolute within 12 weeks of their first opportunity to do so (43 days after Decree Nisi pronounced), then the respondent can apply to the court for the Decree Absolute. If the Respondent applies then the Judge will set a date for a hearing to invite the parties into his chambers and he will ask why the Petitioner has not applied.
When the judge is satisfied the Decree Absolute can be pronounced. But if the Petitioner states that they have nit resolved their financial differences it may be rejected.
When the Decree Absolute is pronounced, the Consent Order becomes legal and must be abided by. You are now legally divorced.
If you are looking to re-marry, it is better to wait for your Decree Absolute to be pronounced before making any arrangements. The courts are very busy and often divorces get delayed and can take a lot longer than expected.