How divorce proceedings work
The divorce petition is the start of the legal journey and the stages for this are:
- Petitioner (applicant) sends petition (application) to the court
- Court sends petition and form to Respondent (other party)
- Respondent returns acknowledgement of service form to court (agreeing to the divorce)
- Court sends a copy of Respondent’s form to Petitioner
- Petitioner makes application for decree nisi (interim divorce order)
- Pronouncement of decree nisi: read out in court, agreeing that your marriage is over, but no-one goes to court unless there is a dispute over costs
- Petitioner waits for a minimum of 6 weeks and 1 day before applying for decree absolute (it’s usually best to get your financial order before applying)
- Court dates and stamps decree absolute, which ends the marriage, and sends to each party, usually within a few days
The court fee for these divorce proceedings is £550. If possible, agree who is going to pay this before the petition is issued.
Your divorce ends your marriage and enables you to remarry. It does nothing else, i.e. it changes nothing with regard to your children or finances.
The divorce petition is like the peg on which everything else is hung ie once a petition is issued, either party can make other applications under it with regard to:
- Financial and property issues
- Domestic abuse
Ideally, the only application to be made will be for a consent order for financial and property matters. You may come to this agreement between yourselves, in mediation, through collaborative law or by your solicitors negotiating it for you.
The order is complex and will need to be drawn up by a solicitor and sent to the court to be approved by a judge: you will not need to attend court unless the judge is not happy with your proposals. The court fee for this is £50 and the order can be applied for once you have your decree nisi.
There is no legal obligation for you to have a court order for your financial agreement but I would almost always recommend this. Without it, you do not have certainty for the future: either of you could come back and make an application to the court many years later (unless you are the respondent in the divorce and have remarried), or even after the death of one of you.
If you cannot reach agreement for a consent order, an application will have to be made to the court for financial remedy on Form A. The procedure is then:
- Court sends directions to both parties (dates for Form Es etc)
- Form Es exchanged
- First court appointment
- FDR (financial dispute resolution) hearing
- Final hearing
The court fee for these proceedings is £255, which will be a minor consideration compared with the solicitors’ and barristers’ fees involved.
This is a very brief and simple overview of divorce proceedings. You will find a lot more information in my book.