Every undefended Divorce follows the same procedure through the [English Law] Courts and this article shows the practical steps which should be followed.
Once you have decided on a legal reason for the Divorce (i.e. adultery, unreasonable behaviour, two years separation, desertion and five years separation) then you will need to complete a Divorce Petition. If you wish to deal with this yourself then you can get the Forms from the Courts Service website or from the Court free of charge. Beware the website which offers a “cheap” Divorce as usually they are selling you the forms and guidance notes which you can get free from the Court!
If there are children then you will also need to complete a Statement of Arrangements for Children. The Petition and the Statement of Arrangements are then filed at the County Court with a Court fee of £300 [note: 01/05/2008].
Next, the Court office processes these forms by issuing the Petition (i.e. logging it and giving it an individual case number) and then send copies to the Respondent (your spouse). At the same time the Court will send you a Notice of Issue which will tell you when the Petition was posted to the Respondent and when they should have returned the Acknowledgement Form to the Court.
Once the Petition has been sent to your spouse they will have 14 days to return the completed Acknowledgement of Service form to the Court. If they do so the Court will then send you this form with the Court seal attached.
The next step is for you to have a Statement (known as an Affidavit) in support of your Divorce Petition sworn in front of either a Court official or a Solicitor. This is then filed at Court with an Application for the Decree Nisi, which is the first Decree to be pronounced.
The Petition, Affidavit and any other papers will next be placed before a Judge for his or her consideration. If the Judge is satisfied with the Petition and other papers then the Court will list the Decree Nisi to be pronounced on a particular date. The Court will send you a Notice advising you of the date for pronouncement. You do not have to attend Court on that date unless there is a dispute in relation to the Divorce itself and it is usual that the Judge will simply pronounce the Decree Nisi in private.
The Court will then send the Decree Nisi to you and your spouse confirming when it was pronounced. The Decree Nisi will state that you can apply for the Decree Absolute 6 weeks later.
The earliest date you can apply for your Decree Absolute is 6 weeks and 1 day from the date of the Decree Nisi. To do so you simply complete an Application form which is filed at Court with a fee (currently £40 [note: 01/05/2008]).The Application does not need to go before a Judge and is simply processed by the Court office. The Decree Absolute is sent out usually within a week of receipt and is sealed with a red Court seal. It is important to keep the original as you may need it if, for example, you intend to remarry.
If you are the Respondent in the Divorce then you can also apply for Decree Absolute but not for a further three months after the Petitioner could apply. You will need to apply “on notice” and the Court will list this for a short hearing to decide whether the Decree can be granted on your application.
Once the Decree Absolute is pronounced this means that you are divorced and free to remarry. You should be aware that Divorce affects inheritance under a Will and you should therefore ensure that you take advice from a Solicitor specialising in Wills as it may be necessary to amend your Will.