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Q&A: Family law

Q. I am going through a separation and am keen to minimise the time it takes and the impact on our family. What can I do to speed up the process?

A.  By Ann Hallmark, solicitor in the Family team at Napthens

Divorce is a potentially complex process that shouldn’t be rushed so that the outcome is beneficial to all parties, including any children involved.

Some steps can’t be avoided, but things can be done to help the process run smoothly.

The person who starts the process (petitioner) prepares the divorce petition, along with an accompanying document setting out proposed arrangements for children. This is sent to court with the necessary fee.

The court then sends the petition to the other party (the respondent) together with documents that require signing.

Provided the divorce is not defended, which is rare, the petitioner then sends a completed request for a decree nisi to the court. The court will take a short time, often around four weeks, to consider the papers and fix a date.

Six weeks after the decree nisi the petitioner can send an application for decree absolute, usually processed within a couple of days. The divorce is then finalised.

The whole process usually takes between four and six months.

Time varies depending on how busy a particular court is.  A divorce can be started in any court in England or Wales although if there are issues relating to finances and children proceedings could transfer to a local court on the application of either party if the venue was causing additional expense/inconvenience.

Sometimes the petitioner is advised to defer applying for decree absolute until financial issues are resolved, which can cause delays.

By taking each step promptly unnecessary delays can be avoided.  If finances can be negotiated and agreed within the divorce timescale this also avoids potential delay in applying for the decree absolute.