Divorce procedure

It all too easy to look at the statistics around the topic of divorce procedure and be caught up in calculating generalised trends and tendencies whilst forgetting the intense human drama which is being played out in each and every individual case. Even the most amicable of divorces places a strain upon the families involved, and the circumstances surrounding the end of a marriage are frequently such that the process is anything but amicable. The fact that the statistics indicate that divorce is, if anything, becoming less likely, merely underlines what a huge step every individual case represents.

According to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), published in 2013, 42% of marriages in England and Wales end in divorce, although, taking divorce and bereavement into account, 60% of marriages are still expected to make it to their twentieth anniversary. The figures also revealed that the divorce rate – at 9.8 per 1,000 married men or women – is the lowest it’s been since 1975. Another trend highlighted by the statistics was the fact that the couples involved in divorce cases are older than they’ve ever been; the average age at which a divorce is granted being 44.7 years for men and 42.2 years for women, a figure which has been rising steadily for the past 30 years.

For a law firm such as Higgins Miller, well versed in all areas of Family Law and with a team which recognises the need to treat each individual divorce case as an intensely personal and emotional process, the rise in the age at which people instigate divorce procedure represents a significant challenge. The older a couple are when they opt to divorce, the more likely they are to have amassed assets which need to be divided and to have forged sometimes complicated family structures which make agreeing the terms of any divorce settlement more difficult.

Our experience in fields such as mediation, children’s disputes and financial issues upon separation means we are perfectly placed to offer advice on divorce proceedings at any stage, and no matter what the individual circumstances are. Even if you feel, as a couple, that you’ll be able to reach an agreement between yourselves, it would still be wise to seek legal advice before embarking on a particular course of action. Binding decisions taken at the outset of proceedings could prove problematic months and years down the line, and our experts will be able to explain exactly what each decision taken means in the longer term.

The divorce procedure

A divorce can generally be broken down into three mains steps. The first of these is to apply to a court for permission to divorce, and this is known as filing a divorce petition. The petition must include the reasons, or ‘grounds’ why you wish to seek a divorce, and these generally fall into five main groupings:


Your husband or wife had sex with another person and you feel unable to continue living with them. It should be noted that you can no longer cite adultery as grounds for divorce if you lived with your spouse for six months after discovering the adultery in question unless the adultery is ongoing.

Unreasonable behaviour

Behaviour which might be considered unreasonable enough to make remaining with your husband or wife impossible. Is subjective, what might seem minor to some people may be viewed as unreasonable in the context of the marriage


This means your husband and wife having left you without your agreement and with no good reason. Whether they explicitly meant to end the relationship, or have simply been absent for two out of the past two and a half years, it could still count as desertion.

Living apart for longer than 2 years

If you’ve lived separately for more than two years, and both agree to the divorce, then it will be granted.

Living apart for longer than 5 years

5 years apart will mean that a divorce procedure is granted even if one of the parties doesn’t agree.

How the process unfolds from this point depends upon the response from your husband or wife. They will agree to the divorce, disagree, fail to respond or launch counter proceedings of their own. This response will dictate whether an appearance in court has to be contemplated at some stage, and a family law firm such as Higgins Miller will always place the emphasis upon avoiding court action if it is as all possible.

For more information, call us on 0161 429 7251 or email us at [email protected]. We can carry out an initial legal aid appraisal, in person or over the phone, free of charge for up to 20 minutes. If needed, a Fixed Fee first appointment will cost just £50 (plus VAT), and the details of the wider case funding implications are available here.

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