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Step by step guide through your undefended divorce in UK

Updated on November 3, 2015

Step 1:

If you want to divorce your husband or wife, you will need to apply to the court and explain why you want a divorce. This application is called a ‘divorce petition’

To start a divorce, you or your adviser will need to fill in a ‘divorce petition’ – called a form D8.

You’ll need to fill in the form, which must include:

(a) your full name and address

(b) your husband or wife’s full name and address

(c) the names and dates of birth of any children you have (no matter how old they are)

(d) your marriage certificate

You can’t use a photocopy of your marriage certificate – it must be the original document or a copy from the register office.

You’ll have to show on the form the reasons why you want a divorce. These are known as supporting ‘facts’ to show ‘grounds for divorce’.

Also, read about grounds for divorce

You may want a divorce because your husband or wife has had sex with someone of the opposite sex (‘adultery’).If this is the case, you can name the person they have been unfaithful with on the forms if you want to. They will get copies of the paperwork if you do choose to include their name.

You’ll need to pay a fee to start a divorce.

You’ll need to fill in three copies of the divorce petition (form D8).

You or your adviser must send the forms to a court that will deal with the divorce. Remember that not every court deals with divorce.

Step 2:

When the court gets your divorce petition, it will send a copy to your husband or wife.

They will also get a ‘notice of proceedings form’ and ‘acknowledgement of service form’.

The respondent can exercise the following options:

  • Ignore the petition and do not bother to return the acknowledgment of service to the court
  • Fill in the acknowledgment of service form and return to the court with the intention to defend the divorce petition
  • Fill in the acknowledgment of service form and return to the court with the intention to agree with the divorce petition

They have eight days to fill in and return the acknowledgment of service form to the court. The court will send you a copy.

If you’re divorcing because of adultery and named the other person on your forms, they will get paperwork from the court.

Your husband or wife can agree the divorce or they can argue against (‘defend’) it.

Step 3:

If your husband or wife shows that they’re not defending the divorce, you can move to the next stage. This is asking the court to issue a ‘decree nisi’. This is a document that says the court doesn’t see a reason why you can’t divorce.

Step 4:

If you have started a divorce and your husband or wife says they don’t want to defend it, you can apply for a ‘decree nisi’. This is a document that says that the court doesn’t see any reason why you can’t divorce.

Before you can apply for a decree nisi, you must have:

  • decided why you want to divorce (the supporting ‘facts’ to show ‘grounds’ for divorce)
  • filed a divorce petition and got a response from your husband or wife
  • You can apply for a decree nisi if your husband or wife isn’t defending your divorce petition.
  • The court will send you a copy of your husband or wife’s acknowledgement of service form. This form will show you that they are not defending the divorce.
  • When you get this, you can apply for ‘directions for trial’. This is asking the court to review your divorce paperwork and decide if the divorce can go ahead.

The forms need to apply for a decree nisi

You need to fill in form D84 (Application for directions for trial) and form D80 (Affidavit of evidence).

Form D80 is an ‘affidavit’ (a sworn statement) concerning your divorce. It confirms that what you say in your divorce petition is true. You must get this form witnessed by a member of court staff or a solicitor before submitting it to the court.There are five D80 forms. You must use the one that covers the ground you have given in divorce.

You should also attach a copy of your husband or wife’s acknowledgement of service form. This will usually show the court that your husband or wife agrees with your reasons for divorce and any arrangements you’re proposing.

You or your adviser will need to return all this paperwork to the court dealing with your divorce.

There is a different version of the form D80 for each ‘fact’ for divorce. You’ll need to use the version of the form D80 that covers the ‘facts’ you’ve used in your divorce petition.

When you return these forms, the court will pass them to a judge. The judge then considers whether there is enough evidence to allow the divorce to proceed.

The judge will review all your paperwork, including any arrangements you’re proposing for children (if you have any).

The forms you will get back from the court

If the judge agrees, the court will send you and your husband or wife a form “certificate of entitlement to a decree”. This form tells you when the court will formally say you can divorce. You don’t have to go to court for this.

Step 5:

When the court gives you a ‘decree nisi’, this means it doesn’t think there are any reasons why you can’t divorce. But to complete your divorce and legally end your marriage, you need to get a decree absolute.

A decree absolute is the legal document that ends your marriage. Once you have a decree absolute, you are divorced, no longer married and free to marry again if you wish.

Before you get a decree absolute, you must have applied to the court for a divorce and have already got your ‘decree nisi’.

When you have received your decree nisi from the court, you can consider applying for a decree absolute to end your marriage.

When you can apply for a decree absolute depends on whether you or your husband or wife started the divorce.

If you started the divorce

You can apply to the court for a decree absolute – but you must wait six weeks and a day after the decree nisi was issued.

If your husband or wife started the divorce

If you want to apply for a decree absolute but your husband or wife started the divorce, you have to wait an additional three months.

So the earliest you can apply is three months, six weeks and a day after the decree nisi was issued.

It’s a good idea for one of you to apply for the decree absolute within 12 months of the decree nisi if you can.

If you apply any later than this, you will have to explain to the court:

  • why the delay has happened
  • if you’ve lived with your partner since the decree nisi was granted

You may also need to provide a sworn statement (‘affidavit’), which you may have to pay for.

To get a decree absolute, you or your legal adviser need to complete the notice of application for decree nisi to be made absolute and send it to the court.

There will be a fee for this.

Once the court has your completed the notice of application for decree nisi to be made absolute, it will check that the divorce can be finalised.

You won’t need to attend the court for this.

If the court is happy, it will send both of you decree absolute.

This means that your marriage is legally over and you can remarry if you wish.

You should keep your decree absolute safe. You will need to show it if you remarry or enter into a civil partnership. You may also need it to show your marital status when claiming benefits or a pension, for example.

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