As a family law specialist, separating spouses often ask me how long it will take for their divorce to be finalised once the petition has been filed.
The truth is divorce doesn’t adopt a one-size-fits-all approach, so the time that it takes to complete the divorce process varies from couple to couple. It all depends on your circumstances.
Embarking on the divorce process
An uncontested divorce in the UK can take as little as four months, however if there are financial matters to resolve then the process takes significantly longer, particularly if these matters cannot be agreed on easily.
The divorce petition
It is advisable to contact your spouse or their solicitor to reach an agreement about the content of the petition before it is filed, for example, to obtain consent to a two-year separation divorce, or to send a draft copy of the particulars of behaviour.
This will speed up the divorce process and minimise the risk of the divorce being contested as each party will know what the ground of divorce is from the outset.
Once the petition has been finalised, it is sent with the original marriage certificate and the court fee – currently £550 – to one of the central divorce centres. It may be possible to obtain an exemption from paying some or all of the court fee, depending on your financial circumstances.
The person issuing the divorce proceedings is known as the petitioner. Upon issue, your spouse – the respondent – will be sent a copy of the petition and they will need to complete an acknowledgment of service form to express that they won’t be contesting the divorce. If it’s not returned it may be necessary to arrange for personal service of the documents.
The decree nisi
Once the acknowledgment of service is returned to court, you can apply for a decree nisi by completing an application form and supporting statement. Assuming the court is satisfied you are entitled to a divorce, it will set a date for the pronouncement of the decree nisi and send notice to both parties.
You would not usually need to attend court unless there is a dispute about the claim for costs, if made in the petition. If the court doesn’t approve the divorce though, notice will be sent to both parties setting out the queries raised and the application for decree nisi can be resubmitted by the petitioner once these have been resolved.
The decree absolute
The decree nisi will be pronouced by the court but it is only a provisional decree of divorce.The petitioner must wait at least six weeks from the date the decree nisi was granted before making an application for the decree nisi to be made absolute, or final.
This application is usually dealt with quickly by the court and the final decree is sent out to both parties. If the petitioner does not apply for decree absolute, then the respondent can make an application three months after the six week period has expired.
If financial matters have not been agreed at this stage though, it may be necessary to delay the application for decree absolute until they have. Also, you should review your will as any provision for your spouse becomes void once decree absolute has been granted.
Once the court grants decree absolute the marriage is over – you are divorced and free to re-marry.
For more information on divorce or any family law matter, contact David Connor on 01706 225621 or email him at David.Connor@whnsolicitors.co.uk