Family Law is very fast moving with rapid and regular changes. It is therefore vital that your Solicitor is a Specialist. Every Family Lawyer is required to comply with the Family Law Protocol, unless it would be inappropriate to do so.
How do you get a divorce?
Presently to obtain a divorce you must have been married for at least a year and have your home in England and Wales. The only ground for divorce is irretrievable breakdown, which is “proved” by one of five facts :-
- Live apart for two years and both agree
- Live apart for five years if no agreement
- One spouse deserts the other for two years or more
- One spouse commits adultery
- One spouse behaves unreasonably
How long does it take?
It takes about 4 months from filing a Petition for divorce until Decree Nisi. You are not divorced at this stage. You must then wait at least six weeks for Decree Absolute and the ending of the marriage. If you have not been married for a year, or there are other reasons why you may not want a divorce, then you can obtain a Judicial Separation in exactly the same way which can be converted into a divorce at a later stage.
How is it done?
One spouse, called the Petitioner, instructs their solicitor to file the Divorce Petition in a Divorce Unit with the Marriage Certificate. If there are children, a separate form is required. The Court sends copies of the forms to the other spouse (called the Respondent) who completes a form called an Acknowledgment of Service and sends it back to the Divorce Unit.
A copy of the Acknowledgment of Service is then sent to the Petitioner who, if the divorce is not defended, signs an application form to apply for the Decree Nisi. Unless there is a dispute about costs, there is usually no need to attend Court. You then have to wait at least six weeks before the divorce can be finalised. This is done by applying for Decree Absolute. Mostly it is wise to wait until finances are agreed before applying for Decree Absolute. The Respondent has to wait a further three months before he/she can apply.
What does it cost?
The cost is £550 in Court fees plus approximately £600 Solicitors’ fees plus VAT. You can ask the Court to order your spouse to pay these.
The general principle that the unsuccessful party should pay the costs of the successful party does not apply in respect of family proceedings. Whether or not one party or the other should pay costs and if so when and how much is at the discretion of the Court. In uncontested proceedings the question of costs is dealt with by the District Judge at the time of certifying you are entitled to a divorce. Before the issue of costs can be addressed by the District Judge a claim for costs must have been made in the petition and the petitioner must have requested an order for costs in his/her application.
In order to contest the making of an order for costs against them the respondent should set out their objections on the form of Acknowledgement of Service of the petition. The objections submitted should relate to the principle of why costs should not be awarded. Objections relating to a respondent’s inability to pay costs are rarely if ever enough. In contested proceedings it is likely that at the end of the hearing of the case the unsuccessful party will be required to meet the costs of the successful party. If the Court investigates the question of costs, it is likely to pay considerable attention to the question “whose conduct gave rise to the litigation?”
As divorce affects inheritance, you should consider making or altering your Will.
The Child Maintenance Service usually deals with maintenance for children, not the Courts. Problems concerning the children and finances are dealt with separately in another section.
It is vital to get legal advice on finances before remarrying.