What is the divorce process?

Divorce is a legal area we find ourselves experts in, as we pride ourselves on holding the title of The North West’s Specialist divorce solicitor Manchester.

As documented in our two previous articles, Divorce FAQs and The first step in divorce you’re not alone in having divorce-specific questions or find yourself needing help to navigate through a divorce.

Regardless of the team member you are appointed when facing a divorce, we are all divorce experts, which means you are in the safest of hands, when navigating a really difficult, stressful chapter in your life.

As with our previous articles, we’ve compiled a brief outline of the divorce process from the first petition to the resolution.  If by the end of the article you still have any questions or uncertainties, do not hesitate to contact us at your earliest convenience.

What is a divorce?

A divorce is a legal term which is used to describe the ending or dissolving of a marriage between two people. A divorce can only be granted by the court. Due to the legality involved, it is hugely different to a couple’s separation, as a couple that chooses to separate may not necessarily be legally married (and therefore doesn’t require divorce proceedings).

Divorce is a significantly impactful legal matter, so should always be carefully considered and the decision reached when all other avenues, such as mediation, have been exhausted and unsuccessful.

Elements that impact the divorce process

We’re often asked how long a divorce takes and unfortunately, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer (if only there was!) We tend to estimate around the eight-month mark, but again, this is a general guide and not a definite time period. One of the main elements that impact the divorce process is the existing relationship with your ex-partner.

If both parties agree and the discussions are amicable, then the divorce should in theory run as smoothly as possible. However, if the respondent doesn’t agree with the petitioner, lengthy court proceedings can ensue. It’s worth noting there are legal requirements and set criteria in place that you must meet, in order for you to start the divorce process, as the petitioner.

The legal criteria include:

  • You and your spouse have been married for at least one year
  • Your relationship has permanently, irrevocably broken down as a result of one of the grounds for divorce (we will outline these in the next section)
  • Your marriage is legally recognised in the UK

Remember that once you are certain you are eligible for a divorce in the UK, you then need to decide which type of divorce application you wish to make, either applying for a divorce on your own (as the petitioner) or whether you agree to a  joint application (also known as a ‘No Fault Divorce’)

Legally recognised grounds for divorce

In cases of a joint application or a ‘No Fault Divorce,’ the application is simpler, as you amicably complete it together, so grounds for divorce aren’t applicable in this case. In the majority of divorces, there is usually a petitioner, where they need to prove one of the main five grounds for divorce, in order for the divorce to be legally granted.

The main grounds are:

  • Adultery
  • Unreasonable behaviour
  • Desertion for two years or more
  • Separation for two years with consent; and/or
  • Separation for five years without consent

As every relationship is unique to the spouses, so is the divorce. If you are unsure which ground(s) to file for a divorce on, we are on hand to discuss your case in detail with you and help you decide the legal reason for your petition.

Making pre-divorce arrangements

Arrangements must be considered as part of the process, especially when circumstances involve children, money and property. In our experience, this tends to be the area that causes the most amount of stress and worry. Let us take some of the pressure off you, with our robust procedures and structures in place, to help you divide your assets as fairly as possible.

The existing family home can be the most difficult issue to navigate, as it is the single largest asset to exist within most of our lives. Urgent action can be required, which adds to the stress of the divorce process.

Remember to also consider pensions, businesses, savings and investments as all of these factors must be included within the divorce. Each of our family law solicitors Manchester and divorce team are members of Resolution so you can be assured you will only receive the best, most honest, informed advice.

Lodging your petition – to start the divorce

You can apply for a divorce either online or via the post. This is of course something one of our expert team will help you write and send, as well as collecting any evidence you may require. You will at least need a copy of your wedding certificate and both partner’s details, to prove your marriage is legal, in order to progress to null the marriage.

What happens after you apply?

Presuming you have applied for a divorce on your own (not a joint application), your application will be legally checked and if everything looks correct, you will be given an acknowledgement receipt, stamped from HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS), alongside a case number, should you need to refer to this.  We advise you keep any documentation relating to the divorce process safe and easily accessible, should you need it at any point.

Your ex-partner must legally respond to the acknowledgement of service notification to indicate whether they agree with, or dispute the divorce.

Applying for a conditional order

If they disagree with the divorce, they will need to complete an ‘answer form’ to illustrate why they are not agreeing to the divorce.

Providing they do agree, your next step is to apply for a conditional order. It’s worth noting that there is a 20-week period after your divorce application has been submitted before you can apply for this next step.

Conditional Order and Decree Nisi documents

The court will then review your application again, which can take several weeks as a general rule. Both the conditional order and Decree Nisi are crucial documents that prove in writing that the court does not see any legal reason you cannot divorce your partner. Putting it simply, it means your divorce is one step closer to being annulled and finalised.

Once the judge agrees on the grounds of your divorce and is happy to proceed, the court will send you and your current husband or wife a certificate. This certificate is crucial, as it will explain the time and date you will officially be granted your conditional order (or decree nisi).

We always remind our clients that even after this step has been granted, you are still legally married. Legally, you then need to wait a minimum of 43 days, which equates to six weeks and one day after the decree nisi has been granted, before you can progress to the final stage of the divorce. After this time period, you can apply to finalise the divorce and legally end your existing marriage.

The final stage in the divorce process

The final stage in the legal process to obtain a divorce is to apply for a final order, known as a final order (decree absolute). For all divorces taking place after 6th April 2022, you can either apply online or via the post. Again, this is something our team can assist you with, depending on how we advised you so far within the divorce process.

Our divorce-specialist assurances at Higgins Miller Solicitors

At Higgins Miller Solicitors , after an initial consultation, if you find yourself ready to start with your divorce proceedings, one of our specialist Manchester divorce lawyers will happily arrange a meeting in our Stockport solicitors based offices. This service will always include you as our client leaving with a detailed, written report of our initial discussion together, with our professional advice instructing you on how to progress your case.

For all further information on anything covered in this article, or if you still feel you have any unanswered divorce-related questions, please don’t hesitate to give us a call on 0161 429 7251. For those clients who prefer to communicate online, feel free to email us at [email protected].

We look forward to helping you start the divorce process, with our expert guidance and support.