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Divorce & Family Law Help
What Happens After I Retain A Solicitor?
Divorce proceedings revolve around 3 main issues. The first is the dissolving of the bonds of marriage. The second being the welfare of any children from the marriage and last but not least is the settling of any financial issues that there may be also known as ancillary relief.
After you have retained the services of a solicitor you will start the wheels of justice. There are many grounds for divorce under English law. Reasons for the granting of a divorce range from adultery or unreasonable behaviour (which can be very widely interpreted). Desertion, this may make the divorce process much longer, if the whereabouts of the respondent is not known. The other two reasons being two years of separation with consent or five years of separation without consent. English law states that it must be proven that the marriage has broken down irretrievably and that one of the parties has been unreasonable in terms of behaviour, as aforementioned.
The first step taken by your solicitor is to lodge a divorce petition with the courts. One spouse must be domiciled (live in the area) of the court, being Wales or England during or at the commencement of the divorce proceedings. The petition is reasonably simple. It identifies the parties, the petition for the dissolving of the bonds of marriage and any ancillary relief sought. This is also known as a Form D8. Should there be any minor children in the marriage, this petition will also be accompanied by a “Statement of Arrangements for Children” or also known as a Form D8A. Your solicitor sends this to court with your marriage certificate.
Once the courts have these, they will send a copy of the petition and statement of arrangements to the respondent, being your spouse. This process of sending a copy to your spouse is known as an acknowledgment of service. This is to ensure that the respondent is made aware of the petition and able to respond to it. The respondent will either defend the matter or simply acknowledge receiving the process. The respondent has 7 days in which to respond. However this varies as it would normally be 7 days from which it was brought to their attention. If it was at the post office for 5 days before he opened it, he still has seven days in which to respond from the date of receipt.
The respondent fills in an affidavit and returns this to the court, where a district judge will look at it and if all is in order issue the certificate and will set down a date and inform your solicitor of the date when the decree nisi will be made. Your solicitor may go to court where the judge will simply announce the decree nisi which is only provisional. You will have to wait another 6 weeks for this to be made absolute. After you have waited the 6 weeks, your solicitor will again petition the court to make the decree nisi absolute.
The process does take a bit of time and there can be numerous delays in the process. The initial process of giving notice to the respondent many times is the longest. This is because you are waiting on him to receive the documents and acknowledge it. The waiting period of 6 weeks cannot be changed without good reason; however you can ask for personal service and have a court bailiff will serve the petition for divorce on your spouse during the initial stages. You can also ask your solicitor to have his clerk collect the returned documents at court instead of waiting for it by mail. This makes the process much faster but a little bit more costly.
It is always good to have an experienced solicitor during a divorce. All the secondary issues such as finances and custody and maintenance of the children can be settled rather quickly with a firm but non-confrontational solicitor during the 6 weeks that the provisional decree nisi is in effect. Divorce is never the end, but it is usually a new beginning for both parties.