The Five Stages of Divorce
the risks of DIY divorce

The Five Stages of Divorce

Stage 1 – The Petition

In order to initiate divorce proceedings, the applying party, known as the Petitioner, will need to send to the court a Divorce Petition. The only ground for a divorce is irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.

In England and Wales, the Petition must cite one of five facts to prove that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. The facts that can be relied upon are unreasonable behaviour, adultery (available to heterosexual couples only) two years separation with consent, five years separation or desertion.

It is likely that legislation will be passed in the near future to enable a divorce to proceed on a ‘no fault basis’ to reflect the fact that this is more amicable and potentially less costly.

Stage 2 – The Response

Once the Petition has been lodged, the court will send a copy to your spouse, who known as the Respondent, alongside an Acknowledgement of Service form which they should complete and send back to the court to allow the divorce to proceed. The Respondent is required to return this within 7 days and their response should indicate whether they wish to defend the divorce proceedings, whether they agree to the reasons for divorce and their position with regards to who they believe should bear the divorce costs.

It is very rare that divorce proceedings are defended, given it is costly to do so, and will have little impact on the end result.

In cases where the Respondent refuses to return the Acknowledgement of Service form, the Petitioner can arrange for a process server to personally serve the Petition on the Respondent. The process server will charge a fee for this and will provide a statement of service which can be used in lieu of the signed Acknowledgement of Service to progress the divorce.

Stage 3 – Applying for Decree Nisi

Once the Petition has been appropriately acknowledged, the Petitioner will need to apply for a Decree Nisi, which is the first decree in divorce proceedings.

This is done by submitting an application form alongside a statement in support which confirms that the contents of the application are true. Upon these being lodged with the court, and the court considering the documentation and being satisfied that the Petitioner is entitled to a divorce, the Court will issue a Certificate of Entitlement to a Decree Nisi which will list the date for the pronouncement of the Decree Nisi.

Stage 4 – Decree Nisi & Costs Order

Both parties will receive a Court Order stating that the Decree Nisi has been pronounced. Along with this there will be a Costs Order stating who should be responsible for meeting the Petitioner’s divorce costs.

Both parties will have had the opportunity to attend at court when the Decree Nisi was pronounced to argue their position in relation to costs should they so wish.

The divorce is not complete until Decree Absolute is pronounced, and this can only be applied for after at least 6 weeks and one day have passed since the pronouncement of the Decree Nisi. After the prescribed time, the Petitioner is entitled to lodge a Notice of Application for Decree Nisi to be made Absolute.

Stage 5 – Pronouncement of Decree Absolute

The final step in the divorce is the pronouncement of the Decree Absolute which will be made on the court receiving the Notice of Application for Decree Nisi to be made Absolute.  The first date that the Petitioner can make such application is 6 weeks and 1 day after the pronouncement of the Decree Nisi. Once the Decree Absolute has been granted, you will be legally divorced.

It should be noted that obtaining a Decree Absolute does not prevent your spouse from having a claim on your income and /or assets and /or any future inheritance you may receive. In order to be protected from any future claims, a clean break Consent Order is required. It is often recommended that the Petitioner refrain from applying for Decree Absolute until financial matters are resolved.

It is possible for the Respondent to make such application for the Decree Absolute, should the Petitioner fail/refuse to do so. However, this is more complication and requires an application being made to the court and a hearing where the Judge will decide.

For more information on how our experienced Family Solicitors can help with your divorce, whether the Petitioner or Respondent please contact our client service advisors.


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