The process of getting a divorce in the United Kingdom has never been easier, especially considering the changes being introduced to the divorce law this April. However, the fact that the divorce process has been simplified doesn’t make the divorce itself easy, especially considering its implications on your finances and children. This is the reason why one needs to consult a divorce solicitor before pushing through with the divorce. The solicitor will help you make a clean break and also reach a financial settlement plan while making all this legally binding with a Consent Order. Also, where the kids are involved, the family attorneys will help you in making co-parenting arrangements, either voluntarily or with a Child Arrangement Order. That aside, in this article, we are going to tell you everything you need to know about the divorce process in the UK.
What are some of the grounds for divorce?
As you know, the only reason for divorce is when your marriage breaks down permanently to the point where it cannot be fixed. But now, how do you prove to a judge that the marriage has broken down irretrievably? Well, by stating one of these grounds in your divorce petition:
Adultery – this is the act of having sexual relations with a person of the opposite gender who is not your spouse. It is one of the most common reasons why many married couples end their marriages in the UK. Now, when this happens and the partner agrees to a divorce, the court will most likely agree and grant the divorce. But if the partner denies the cheating allegations, then you will have to provide the court with sufficient evidence proving that the act indeed happened. And you also have to prove to the court that you find it intolerable to live with your spouse, either because of the infidelity, or any other behaviour. Please remember that if you continue living together with the spouse for 6 months after finding out about the adultery, you won’t be able to use the incident as a ground for the divorce.
Unreasonable behaviour – by unreasonable behaviour, we mean any type of unexpected behaviour that’s making it increasingly impossible to remain in the marriage. Such behaviour can include acts of domestic violence, to withholding love and affection. During the divorce proceedings, you will need to provide at least 4 or 5 examples of the spouse’s behaviour. So probably pick the first incident, the worst, and the most recent one. And remember, if the most recent incident is over 6 months ago and you have been living with your partner all this time, then it would be difficult to use it as a ground for the divorce.
Desertion – this is the situation where one spouse deserts the other for a period of at least two years. When it comes to using this reason, you will have to prove that your partner left you with the aim of ending the relationship, and did so without a good enough reason, or agreement, for at least two years.
Separation with consent – in this case, you and your partner decided to separate for some time, probably trying to work out some issues within the marriage, but then, after a continuous period of two years, both of you decide to divorce. In this kind of separation, it doesn’t necessarily mean living in two separate houses, as it could simply mean living two separate lives or basically sleeping in different rooms. In addition to this, it is important that both spouses agree to the divorce.
Five-year separation – if you and your partner have been separated for over five years, then you are entitled to file for a divorce, even if your partner doesn’t agree to it. and unless the partner proves that ending the marriage would result in serious hardships – financially or other – the court will grant the divorce.
Step by step process on how to get a divorce in the UK
Now that you know about the main grounds for divorce in the UK, here is how you can go through with the divorce:
Step one – file a divorce petition – the divorce process always starts when the petitioner files a divorce petition with a regional divorce centre. In the divorce application, the petitioner must explain the reason for the divorce, or basically why the marriage broke down, as well as the plans one has with regards to the children and the finances. With the new law being proposed, if the couple files for divorce together, they will be referred to as joint applicants. But if one spouse files for the divorce, he or she will be referred to as an applicant, while the other spouse becomes a respondent. Make sure that you complete the divorce petition correctly, and when filing it be sure to include your marriage certificate and a court fee.
Step two – acknowledgment of service – once the divorce petition has been successfully filed, the court will then send a copy of the petition to your spouse, the respondent, which goes together with an acknowledgment of service form, which he or she must return within 7 days. In a nutshell, the acknowledgment of service form confirms the following;
- Whether or not your spouse did receive the divorce papers
- Whether he or she is happy with the specific reasons given as grounds for the divorce
- Whether he or she agrees to the divorce or will want to contest it.
If the respondent chooses to contest the divorce, it could only be on the following grounds;
- That he or she believes the court handling the case doesn’t have any jurisdiction to handle the divorce. It could be because both parties don’t have any kind of connection to its jurisdiction.
- The marriage is invalid
- Or the marriage has already been ended legally.
If the respondent fails to acknowledge the divorce within the set timeframe, the divorce process will still continue.
Step three – application for the conditional order (decree nisi) – once all the documents have been sent and verified by the court, the petitioner is now free to apply for a conditional order, which essentially means that the court doesn’t see any reason why the divorce can’t be granted. If the judge agrees with this fact, your conditional order will be pronounced and a pronouncement date will be set. On this date, both of you don’t have to show up in court.
Step four – applying for the final order – six weeks after the pronouncement of the conditional order, you can now apply for the final order, formerly known as the decree absolute. It is a standard form that you complete to request the final order. So, once it has been granted and sealed, you will be officially divorced.
What about the financial settlements after the divorce?
Financial settlement is always the most contentious issue when it comes to a divorce, alongside child support/co-parenting. Now, since each case is different, especially in terms of the ‘matrimonial pot’, you will find that there are cases that are more complex than others. In most cases, the matrimonial assets are limited to those assets that the couple gained together. This means that everything that one acquired prior to the marriage or after the divorce is off the table while dividing the assets. The matrimonial pot includes assets such as:
- Money, which includes savings and investments
- Property, which might include the family home, plus any other property that they acquired while in the marriage
- Businesses that they started together
- Life insurance policies
Any assets that were acquired before the marriage are usually protected by a pre-nuptial agreement. Now, if, as a couple, you have already agreed on how you are going to divide the matrimonial assets, then all you need to obtain is a financial court order by signing a consent order which contains the agreement you have reached. Your divorce solicitor will help you draw up the consent order. If the finances are contested, the court will have to intervene and decide what’s fair for both parties. In many cases, the children are the deciding factor, where you find the spouse who gives up his/her career to take care of the family will be awarded by the court. Most likely, the judge might decide to give them half of the matrimonial assets. This in comparison with a couple who don’t have any kids, could just walk away with whatever each one brought into the marriage. As a matter of fact, in these cases, the couple is able to get a clean break order, preventing any future claims against either party.
How long does a divorce take in the UK?
Under the new proposed law, after receiving the divorce petition, the court will have to wait at least 20 weeks before issuing the conditional order (decree nisi), and a further 6 weeks before it issues the Final Order (decree absolute). That means it will only take at least 6 months for the quickest divorce, and around 12 months at most for the divorce to be over.
How much does it cost to get a divorce?
When it comes to the cost of a divorce, it will fall into two categories; the mandatory court fees, and also the legal fees for hiring a divorce solicitor. For the court fees, the cost is 593 pounds in England and wales. But if you are on a low income, you may not have to pay the full amount, as you will benefit from benefits such as:
- Income support
- Jobseeker’s allowance
- Employment allowance
- Pension credit
- Universal credit
To get this help, you need to use form EX160a to apply. With regards to the legal fees associated with hiring a divorce lawyer, that will depend on the lawyer you get. Across the UK, there are quite a number of affordable divorce attorneys, you just need to get the right one.
How to get a divorce if married in another country?
Having an international aspect in a relationship is quite common nowadays, which also means international divorce is also quite possible. But if in such a situation, can you get a divorce, and if yes, how should you go about it? Now, first things first! Yes, you can be able to start divorce proceedings in the UK, provided you have a valid and legitimate marriage certificate. And if the marriage certificate is not in English, you must get a certified translation, which you must file alongside the divorce petition. Also, the marriage must be lawful in the country where it took place. Where the marriage is unlawful, of course, there can be no divorce. But in the end, if these grounds are met, the divorce will follow the same route a domestic divorce follows.
Going through a divorce can be one of the most traumatising experiences married couples have to go through. But the right divorce solicitor will make the process as easy and stress-free as possible while guaranteeing the best possible outcome not only for you, but for your loved ones as well.