White & Co will guide you through the process of dissolving your marriage or civil partnership with empathy and professionalism. We understand what a difficult time this is and so endeavour to get you through this by handling the difficult drafting of paperwork and managing the legal procedures on your behalf.
PROCEDURE FOR DIVORCE
Drafting the Paperwork and Early Considerations
The person bringing the divorce is known as ‘the Petitioner’ and the other person is ‘the Respondent’.
After at least one year of marriage either spouse may file a divorce petition. A divorce petition contains basic information such as names and addresses of the persons involved and a statement that the marriage has irretrievably broken down.
In order to show the court that the marriage has irretrievably broken down there are five possible grounds to rely upon and you need to ensure that the one that you rely upon is set out in your divorce petition.
The petition ends with a section known as the Prayer which begins “the Petitioner therefore prays”. This incorporates a request for all the financial claims that are available. The petition can also include a request that the Respondent pay the costs of the divorce or to pay the costs only if they defend it.
You will need to provide your original marriage certificate or a certified copy to go with the divorce petition.
Issuing the Papers
The Court will issue the divorce petition and assign a case number. A copy of the divorce petition will be sent to the Respondent with an “Acknowledgement of Service” form for the Respondent to complete.
Serving the Papers
Once the Respondent has received the divorce petition he will have to return the Acknowledgement of Service form specifying whether the Respondent intends to defend the petition or whether any claim for costs is disputed.
If the Respondent does not do this in the specified time, other forms of service would need to be explored and we can advise and assist you with this as necessary to ensure the divorce progresses without any further delay.
If the Respondent intends to defend the divorce proceedings they have to file a defence (known as an “Answer”). It is very rare indeed for divorce proceedings to be defended but if it is, our lawyers have expertise in dealing with this.
Applying for Decree Nisi
After receiving a copy of the Acknowledgement of Service form from the Court the Petitioner can apply for the “decree nisi” (the first stage of the divorce order). The Petitioner’s solicitor prepares a statement for the Petitioner to swear (an “Affidavit”) confirming that the contents of the petition are true. Certain other information must also be given, such as whether the couple have remained separated since the proceedings begun. This Affidavit is then filed at Court.
The Decree Nisi Hearing
When the Court receives the application for decree nisi, a Judge looks through the papers and if they are satisfied that the case is proved a date for the decree nisi to be pronounced will be set. This is usually about six to eight weeks after filing the application at the Court. It is not necessary for either party to attend Court on that date unless there is an issue about costs. Your solicitor will let you know if your attendance is required.
The Decree Absolute
Six weeks and one day after the decree nisi has been pronounced the Petitioner can apply for the final decree, known as the decree absolute. The decree absolute is normally granted within four weeks of the application. You will be advised accordingly if there is a reason to delay applying for decree absolute, for example, if financial matters are yet to be finalised.
The Effect of the Decree Absolute
It is only after the decree absolute is granted that the marriage is completely at an end and you are each free to marry again.
Effect on Wills
Once the decree absolute is granted, unless you otherwise direct in the Will, any provision for a former spouse in a Will or any appointment of that spouse as an executor or trustee takes effect as though the spouse had died at the date of the divorce. This can result in an intestacy or partial intestacy which may not reflect your wishes. For this reason a review of your Will before or on the granting of decree absolute is essential.
If you do require legal advice upon the changing of an existing Will, or indeed making a Will for the first time, please do let us know and we will assist you in referring you to a firm of solicitors who undertake this work.
You may wish to seek a pronouncement by religious authorities before taking legal steps to end your marriage. This may be in the form of a get, an annulment, a talaq or similar. The timetable for obtaining the religious divorce is often very important. If this is relevant, please do let us know so that we may co-ordinate the civil divorce with other steps you may be taking. The final civil divorce order may be delayed if one spouse has to take a step to enable the other spouse to obtain a religious divorce.
White & Co offer fixed fee packages to represent you in your divorce as either Petitioner or Respondent. Please contact us for information.