Thinking about getting divorced can be incredibly worrying. There are already enough considerations without the added stress of trying to understand the divorce process. At Sears Tooth, we try to make the process as smooth as possible and, in this blog, we will be setting out the steps so you can be fully informed on what to expect.
The divorce process can include up to three issues, of which are as follows:
- the petition (which is change of your legal status);
- the division of finances (referred to as financial remedies by lawyers); and
- child arrangements (deciding how any children of the marriage will spend their time).
The first step to think about is the petition. This is the document that one party of the divorce fills in to apply for a divorce. The person who applies is known as the petitioner. You must have applied for a divorce in order to be able to apply for a Financial Order arising from the divorce.
In this document the petitioner must state why they are asking for divorce. This is something that is often confused in the media. There is only one ground for divorce – that the marriage has ‘irretrievably broken down’. There are five reasons that the petitioner must chose from:
- Unreasonable Behaviour
- Separation of 2 years with the consent of both parties
- Separation of 5 years (consent is not required for this reason)
Once the petition has been submitted, it will need to be processed. Sometimes this can take a while and it may take as long as six months. If you are worried about how long it might take, get in touch with Sears Tooth as soon as possible to avoid a long delay.
Once the petition has been processed, the other party will be sent a copy of the papers and an ‘Acknowledgement of Service’ form. This party is referred to as the respondent.
The respondent should return the Acknowledgment of Service form within 8 days unless they live abroad, in which case, there are different timescales for returning this document. The respondent can agree to the divorce or indicate that they do not agree and that they will defend the divorce. Further, if you have applied for costs in the petition, the respondent can indicate whether they oppose such an order being made within the Acknowledgment form.
If the respondent agrees, the next stage is to apply for the Decree Nisi. This is a document that says that the court does not see any reason why you cannot get divorced and the Petitioner should indicate in their application whether anything has changed since their Petition was issued. If the respondent does not agree to the divorce, there will need to be a court hearing. There are very limited circumstances under which one can defend a divorce. At Sears Tooth, we have experts who can help you if this is the situation you are in.
Once the Decree Nisi has been granted you will need to wait at least 43 days (6 weeks and 1 day) before you can apply for a Decree Absolute. This is the document that officially ends your marriage. It is important to remember that until this stage you are still legally married.
Finances and Arrangements for Children
Usually, divorcing couples will sort out their finances and arrangements for children before the Decree Absolute is granted.
The division of finances can be a stressful and confusing process. If you cannot agree upon the division of finances, the Court will decide. The Court’s aim is to ensure any arrangement meets the needs of both parties and of any child(ren) of the marriage. Both parties are obliged to provide detailed financial disclosure to assist the Court to make its decision. You can find out more about financial disclosure in another Sears Tooth blog: What is financial disclosure on divorce?
Deciding arrangements for any children of the marriage can be very emotionally charged if you and your ex-partner do not agree. In this circumstance, the court’s paramount consideration will be what is in the best interests of the child. This is referred to as the ‘paramountcy’ principle. The Court is also duty bound to consider the ‘no order’ principle i.e. whether in the circumstances of your case, it is necessary for the Court to make any order whatsoever, referring back to its core principle.
At Sears Tooth, we recognise that getting divorced can be emotionally draining and that you will have many questions about the process and possible outcomes. We have experienced family lawyers who can advise and assist you through this time.
Contact us today to find out more.