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Outline Of Divorce Procedures
According to the latest statistics released, the chances of a married couple getting divorced in England and Wales is over 40%. While this figure may seem high, if you and your spouse are currently contemplating a divorce, you can take heart in the fact that the divorce procedure in England and Wales is now fairly streamlined and, provided the divorce is not a contested one, painless. So, if you find yourself in the emotional situation where divorce seems more practical than trying to reconcile the relationship, the following are the steps in the divorce process you are going to need to be aware of:
Grounds for a divorce
Before you can proceed with filing your petition to divorce with the relevant county court, you are going to need to satisfy a two-fold test proving that you have grounds to divorce.
The first part of this test is a time limitation; you cannot submit a petition to divorce in England and Wales unless you have been married for more than one year.
Assuming the time limitation is not an issue, you then need to evidence that one of the following five “irretrievable breakdowns” has occurred:
1) adultery; or
2) unreasonable behaviour; or
3) desertion – for a period of no less than two years; or
4) lived apart for at least two years (consented); or
5) lived apart for at least five years (contested).
Filing the petition to divorce
Having established that you have the requisite grounds for divorce, you can now proceed with filing the petition to divorce. It is at this stage you’ll need to think about speaking to a divorce solicitor. Essentially divorce in England Wales is not an onerous matter, as, in most cases, the emotional turmoil means that the parties agree that divorce is the only option left to them. That said, you will need to speak with a solicitor if (a) children are involved; or (b) you have significant joint assets.
To file the petition itself, you’ll need to complete the official Form D8 (or D8A in the case that you have children) in triplicate – one for you, one for the court and the third is sent to the other party. The D8 forms are then submitted to the relevant county court.
Submitting the petition and form filing
Having submitted the Form D8, the county court will send a Form D10 to your spouse informing them that a divorce petition has been submitted, evidence of which is sent to you by way of a Form D9H. Provided the divorce is consented to, your spouse has 8 days to return the Form D10. Thereafter you need to file a Form D84, along with a divorce affidavit (sworn statement) on a Form D80 – both of which are available at the county court or online.
Decree Nisi and Decree Absolute
Having received your Form D80, the judge will then decide if you have requisite grounds to divorce and, if so, will issue what is known as a decree nisi (Form D84A or D84B, if there are children). At this point you are still legally married. Once the decree nisi has been granted you’ll be issued a Form D29, which will inform you of when you can apply for the decree absolute. Ordinarily this waiting period is 6 weeks and 1 day, at which time you can file a Form D36 applying for a decree absolute. Shortly thereafter the decree absolute should be issued – a Form D37. Keep in mind that you will need a copy of the Form D37 if you plan to remarry.