The Process of Ending a Marriage
The Divorce Rate
In the past few years the divorce rate has been falling. The number of divorces in the UK saw a slight increase in 2010 but since 2004 has followed a general downward trend. Despite this hundreds and thousands of people get divorced every year. The process can be long and fairly complicated, not to mention quite tough emotionally on everyone involved. So how does the divorce process in the United Kingdom work? If your marriage has fallen apart and you feel that divorce is the only possible option, the first thing you will have to do is to determine what your reason is for wanting a divorce. In order to be eligible for a divorce your reasoning for needing one must fall under one or more of five categories. These categories are known as ‘grounds for divorce’ and they are: adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion and separation of two years or five years. More information can be found about what these grounds actually mean here. Once the grounds for divorce have been determined the divorce process can start. A simple and prompt divorce case will not last much longer than eight months.
The next step in the divorce process is to file a divorce application, which is effectively a way to ask the courts to start divorce proceedings. On the application you will need to fill out relevant information about you and your partner and there will need to be three copies. If you are the one filing for divorce you are the ‘applicant’ and your spouse is the ‘respondent’. Divorce applications on the grounds of adultery can name the third party, i.e. the person a spouse committed adultery with, but many legal professionals and family law solicitors will advise against this. Naming the third party can create ill-feeling and a lack of cooperation in your spouse - delaying the process. If children are involved, and are under 16 or are under 18 and still in education, extra paperwork will need to be filled out. This is the ‘Statement of Arrangements’ and it states where the children will live and with which parent after the divorce process has been completed.
Acknowledging the Divorce
When the application has been filled out it will need to be sent to the Court. You will also need to send the original copy of your marriage certificate and the court fee, which is usually around £340. The Court will check over the paperwork and if it is filled out correctly they will issue the application and send it to the respondent with an Acknowledgement of Service form. Once your spouse has received the paperwork they will have to read them through and come to a decision about whether they agree with the divorce terms it lays down. If they are in agreement they will need to fill out the Acknowledgement of Service form that is included with the paperwork and send it back within seven days. If however, they are unhappy with the terms of the divorce and want to dispute the case they will have to fill out a different form and send it back within 28 days. If they disagree so strongly that they want to apply, in response, for divorce against you, they will need to complete a ‘cross petition’.
Affidavit & Decree Nisi
If everything goes smoothly and the Acknowledgement of Service form is filled out and returned, you will be sent a copy by the court. The next stage in the proceedings is to swear an Affidavit. This is a statement that all the facts you have included in the divorce application are true and correct. It is a requirement of the Affidavit that it is sworn under oath. You will need to send this to the Court and it will be determined whether the case has been carried out correctly. If it has, then the Court will set a date for the Decree Nisi to be announced. A Decree Nisi is a provisional decree that shows a petitioner is entitled to a divorce and can apply for a Decree Absolute. With a Decree Nisi the divorce is not yet completed, it indicates the beginning of the period after which you can apply for a Decree Absolute.
The End: Decree Absolute
When the Decree Nisi has been announced a waiting period of six weeks and a day will follow. After this period has passed you will be able to apply for a Decree Absolute. This is the decree that will dissolve a marriage and bring it to an end. Another application form will need to be filled in and a standard £45 fee needs to be paid. In most cases both parties will receive the Decree Absolute within the next 7-10 days, after the Decree Absolute has been received, both parties will be able to remarry. If you fail to apply for the Decree Absolute, your spouse will be able to apply after three to four months. If the respondent is the one to apply for the decree you will both have to attend a court hearing and pay a larger fee (usually of £80).
Mediation & Resolution
Though it is entirely possible for you to carry out the divorce process without the advice and aid of a family law solicitor, it is usually advisable to engage a legal professional to help you. There is a great deal of paperwork that needs to be filled out accurately and correctly, and someone who specialises in family law will be able to make sure you are following the procedures properly. Using a mediator may also be a helpful option for spouses who cannot agree with each other. If you and your spouse are disagreeing over the situation of the children, property or assets and possessions the services of a mediator may be appropriate. A mediator will help you come to a compromise without taking sides. If a mediator cannot solve the issues, family law solicitors will be able to negotiate with your partner’s solicitor to come to an agreement. A solicitor will also be able to organise your Affidavit to be sworn under oath. For those couples who cannot resolve their differences, a Court hearing is likely to be the best way to settle the divorce proceedings.