Steps to follow
- Have you been married for at least a year? You can’t file for divorce unless you have.
- Has your relationship irretrievably (permanently) broken down? The court will not grant a divorce unless it has.
Do you wish to petition for divorce/civil partnership dissolution on the basis of:
- unreasonable behaviour;
- separation; or
- If separation, have you been separated for two or five years? You don’t need your partner’s consent for the divorce if you have been living apart for five years.
- If you have been living apart for two years, does your spouse/civil partner consent to the divorce?
- Are you divorcing your spouse on the grounds of adultery? If they deny the adultery you may need to gather evidence of their affair (eg, emails or photographs).
- To start a divorce, fill in a divorce petition form (Form D8) and send two copies of it to the court, together with your marriage/civil partnership certificate and the court fee.
- Are there children of the family? If so you will need to file a statement of arrangements for children form.
- If you can’t agree arrangements for your children, take advice and/or see if your spouse/civil partner would be willing to attend mediation sessions with you.
- Your spouse/civil partner will be served with a copy of the petition and a notice of issue of proceedings (plus the statement of arrangements for children if applicable). They must then return an acknowledgment of service form within 21 days.
- If they don’t respond within 21 days, you can continue with the divorce as if they’ve agreed.
- Does your spouse contest the divorce? If so, they will have to fill in court papers called an Answer. You may need produce evidence, such as emails and photographs, to satisfy the court on the balance of probabilities (ie, whether it is more likely to have happened than not), that your case is proven.
- You’ll need to apply for a decree nisi (or dissolution order). If the divorce is contested you can still apply for the decree nisi but you’ll need to go to court so a judge can decide whether or not it should be granted.
- The decree absolute or final dissolution order may be applied for six weeks after the date of pronouncement of the first decree/order.
- Filing for divorce/civil partnership dissolution does not mean the court will automatically deal with financial issues arising from your relationship. A separate financial application must be sent to the court. It is important to obtain expert advice on financial issues before proceeding.
Solicitor’s top tip
Obtaining the final divorce/civil partnership decree/order has important consequences. It may limit any financial provision you may seek from your former spouse/civil partner in the future and affects property ownership/occupation and provision in the event of death whether by will or intestacy.
Getting legal advice
Preparing for a divorce
Dividing property on divorce
Divorce or nullity? Is there a marriage?
Grounds for divorce
Overview of marriage
Living together wisely
Introduction to child custody
Defences to divorce
Crown Prosecution Service