Family & Matrimonial | Divorce & Dissolution
Whilst it is often an emotionally fraught decision to end a marriage/civil partnership, the legal process is, for the vast majority of cases, relatively straightforward, if slightly archaic.
It is possible to obtain a divorce only if one can show that the marriage has irretrievably broken down because of one of the following:
- The other person has committed adultery (this is not applicable for civil partnerships or marriages between persons of the same sex).
- The other party has behaved in such a way that the petitioner cannot reasonably be expected to live with that person (known as Unreasonable Behaviour).
- The parties have separated for two years and the other party consents to the divorce.
- The parties have separated for five years. The other party’s consent is not required.
- There has been a desertion.
It follows, therefore, that for an immediate divorce, it is necessary to prove that the other party has committed adultery or the other party has behaved in such a way that one cannot be expected to live with him or her.
If there are sufficient grounds for a divorce, the party wishing to initiate the divorce proceedings (known as the Petitioner) must petition for a divorce by making an application to the court and paying a court fee.
The Respondent will generally accept that the marriage has broken down and allow the matter to proceed on an undefended basis. This means that the parties do not need to attend before a judge.
A midway point (known as decree nisi) is reached whereby the court confirms that the parties are entitled to a divorce but given a six-week period for anybody to give reasons why the marriage should not be dissolved. Six weeks and one day later, the applicant can apply for decree absolute and formally dissolve the marriage. If they fail to do so, the Respondent must wait an additional three months before they can apply for decree absolute.
If the Respondent does not accept that the marriage has broken down or the allegations stated in the divorce petition, there is what is known as a defended divorce which is determined by the court. However, defended divorces can often be avoided with pragmatic steps which we can discuss with you.