Step 1 – Preparing and filing a divorce application
A Divorce Petition is based on the instructions received by the client and is drafted by a solicitor following advice given. Its purpose is to advise the Court of the background to the marriage giving key information about the parties, the marriage and the children. The Court Judge considers this document to help them consider whether the marriage has irretrievably broken down setting out which of the 5 grounds for divorce is relied upon.
If you are the person presenting the Divorce Petition to the Court you are known as the Petitioner. If you are the person receiving the Divorce Petition you are the Respondent.
If there are children of the marriage the Court also needs to consider the arrangements for the welfare of the children. This information is contained within a separate document known as a Statement of Arrangements. If you are the Petitioner your solicitor will prepare these documents with you.
The Divorce Petition, Statement of Arrangements, Court fee or Application for Exemption from Fees and marriage certificate are forwarded to the Court to begin the Divorce proceedings.
Step 2 – Service of the Application
The Court issues the Petition and sends this out to the Respondent at the address stated in the Petition. With the Court papers there is also a form called the Acknowledgement of Service and this form needs to be completed by the Respondent i.e. the person receiving the Divorce Petition and returned to the Court within 14 days. This is so that the Court is sure that the Respondent has received the Court papers.
If the Respondent does not return the Form of Acknowledgement of Service to the Court, then the Petitioner will need to apply to the Court for the Respondent to be served personally by the Court Bailiff. This is done by completing an Application for Bailiff Service and forwarding it to the Court.
Step 3 – Acknowledgment of Service of the Application
Even if the Court Bailiff is not able to serve the Respondent, the Court can make other Orders depending on the circumstances of the case for deemed service i.e. service of the Divorce Petition is deemed to have taken place, substituted service – sending a copy of the Divorce Petition to an address where it is believed that the Respondent will receive it e.g. a relative’s house or service by notice of insert of an advert in a relevant newspaper.
The Court will take all reasonable steps to ensure that the Respondent is served with notice of the proceedings. If however notice comes to the attention of the Court that the Respondent is evading service, then the Judge would have no hesitation in making one of these other Orders to enable the Petitioner to proceed with the Divorce Petition.
If there are difficulties with service, we will of course advise you having regard to the special circumstances of your case.
The respondent is expected to complete the Acknowledgment of Service form, confirming receipt and indicating whether they wish to dispute the proceedings, whether the proposed arrangements for children are agreed and whether they are prepared to pay the divorce costs.
Step 4 – Applying for Decree Nisi
Once service is proved (either by receipt of the Acknowledgment of Service or Statement of Service) the Applicant then applies to the Court for Decree Nisi. A request for Decree Nisi form will need to be completed at this stage along with a Statement in Support and these will be prepared by the solicitor representing the Petitioner.
Step 5 – Pronouncement of Decree Nisi
If the District Judge then considers that the Petitioner has sufficiently proved their Petition then the Court will list the matter for hearing in open Court for the pronouncement of Decree Nisi. The Court will also pronounce satisfaction with the arrangements for the welfare of the children if this is appropriate.
It is not usually necessary for the parties to attend Court when the Decree Nisi is pronounced, although this may be required if arrangements for children are not agreed or in the event of a dispute about costs.
If your spouse has advised the Court that they intend to defend the petition the case will take a different route and we will advise you of this should it become necessary.
Step 6 – Application for Decree Absolute
After the pronouncement of Decree Nisi in open Court, Notice of Decree Nisi and a Certificate confirming the Court is satisfied with the welfare of the children will be issued. It is then open to the Petitioner to apply for Decree Absolute six weeks and one day after the pronouncement of Decree Nisi.
If the Petitioner does not apply for the Decree Absolute within three months of that first date, the Respondent may so do. Either party can apply to the Court by completing a form and paying the fee or applying for Exemption from the Fee for a period up until one year since the date upon which Decree Nisi was pronounced. After that time either party would have to apply to the Court giving notice of the intention to apply for the Order and serving it onto the other party.
Specific advice will be given to the client on whether it is advisable to apply for Decree Absolute and if so at what stage.
It is only when Decree Absolute has been granted that the marriage is then at an end.