Divorce & Where to Start: Our essential “to do” list
1. It is always advisable to take legal advice before commencing divorce proceedings, and if possible instruct a solicitor to deal with the legal formalities.
2. All divorces in the UK must be commenced by issuing a divorce petition (Form D8), which must be accompanied by your original marriage certificate.
3. To complete the petition, and to enable it to be served on the respondent, you will need to know:-
a. Your spouse’s current address or last known address (if you do not know this, speak to a solicitor for further advice regarding the steps you will need to take to satisfy the court of your attempts to locate your spouse);
b. Your spouse’s date of birth;
c. The date you separated (depending on the fact you are using to prove the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage, if it is two or five years’ separation, the date will be needed);
d. Your spouse’s current occupation; and
e. The full address of any properties in your name, your spouse’s name or in joint names, and details of any mortgages on those properties.
4. If you decide to get divorced and do not have a copy of your original marriage certificate, if you married in the UK, a copy can be ordered from the General Register Office (current cost £9.25) – https://www.gov.uk/order-copy-birth-death-marriage-certificate
5. All divorce proceedings are now issued at centralised divorce units rather than your local court. The centralised divorce unit for London and South East is Bury St. Edmunds. For other areas of the country, you can look up the centralised divorce centre on the Law Society web pages – https://events.lawsociety.org.uk/uploads/files/1b6b6029-9142-4933-ab04-bbbfc20f0726.pdf
6. When the court receives a divorce petition, provided the paper work has been completed correctly and the original marriage certificate is enclosed, the proceedings will be logged on to the court system and given a case number – this is the issuing of the proceedings. The court will state on the divorce petition what time the proceedings were issued by the court (in case two sets of proceedings are issued on the same day, so that it is possible to see which petition was first in time). As the court can take some time to issue a divorce petition after receiving it (because of a back-log) if you are concerned your spouse may issue proceedings in another jurisdiction, you can issue divorce proceedings urgently at the Central Family Court in London on the same day.
7. Once the divorce petition is issued (unless your solicitor or you have asked to serve it on the respondent yourself) the court will serve the issued divorce petition and an acknowledgment of service form on your spouse (the respondent to the proceedings). Your spouse has 14 days to return a completed acknowledgment of service to the court.
8. If your spouse does not acknowledge service of the divorce petition, you will need to consider with your solicitor alternative steps to enable you to ask the court to either deem service of the petition or dispense with service – this will depend on the facts of your case.
9. Once the court has received an acknowledgment of service (or deemed the divorce petition served/ dispensed with service) you will be entitled to apply for Decree Nisi. Decree Nisi is the middle stage in the divorce process after the divorce petition. It is very important as only after Decree Nisi is pronounced can the court make a financial order or endorse a financial consent order – without it, the Judge cannot make any agreement into a formal court order.
10. Decree Absolute is the final stage in the divorce; when this is granted, the marriage is dissolved as a matter of law and both parties become free to re-marry (it will also potentially change the effects of any Will either party to the marriage has and for this reason it is essential to see a private client solicitor). The petitioner in the divorce proceedings becomes entitled to apply for Decree Absolute six weeks and one day after the grant of Decree Nisi. Three months after that date passes, the respondent may apply. It most cases is not advisable to apply for Decree Absolute until your financial settlement has concluded by way of a sealed court order.