Step-by-step guide to divorce

The majority of divorces in the UK are undefended. This means that the person being divorced (the Respondent) has agreed to the divorce going ahead. If the Respondent disagrees with the Applicant’s divorce submission, there is a slightly different process to completion.

A guide to divorce (Undefended)

Step 1 – Preparing and filing a divorce application

The Applicant completes an application form, setting out which of the 5 grounds for divorce they will rely upon. The Application is sent to the Court along with the marriage certificate and Court fee.

Step 2 – Service of the Application

The Court normally sends out papers to the Respondent. This includes an Acknowledgement of Service form that the Respondent should complete and return within 7 days to prove to the Court they have been served; the Applicant can’t proceed until the Court is satisfied that they have.

Step 3 – Acknowledgement of Service of the Application

The Respondent is required to return the Acknowledgement of Service form within 7 days to confirm receipt. They must also indicate whether they wish to dispute the proceedings and whether they are prepared to pay the divorce costs.

Respondent’s failure to return form

The Court needs proof in order to continue. If the Respondent fails to return a completed form, it will be necessary to make other arrangements. This is usually done through personal service of the papers i.e. arranging for either the Court Bailiff or a Process Server to hand a further set of papers to the Respondent.

The person who effects service (the Applicant or their agent) will provide a Statement of Service to the Court confirming they have done so, and the Court will treat the papers as served.

Failure by the Respondent to file the Acknowledgement of Service will inevitably result in some additional delay and costs.

Step 4 – Applying for Decree Nisi

Once service is proved the Applicant applies to the Court for Decree Nisi. A Decree Nisi requires 2 forms – the Application itself and a Statement in support, confirming the truth of what is in the divorce papers.

Step 5 – Pronouncement of Decree Nisi

After lodging the request for Decree Nisi, there is usually a waiting time while the Judge considers the papers. If the Judge is happy with the documentation, the Court will send out notice of a date when a Decree Nisi will be pronounced in Court.

It is not usually necessary for the parties to attend Court when the Decree Nisi is pronounced, although this may be required if there is a dispute about costs.

Step 6 – Application for Decree Absolute

The Applicant can apply for the Decree Absolute 6 weeks and 1 day after the Decree Nisi is pronounced, using a standard application form. Only when the Decree Absolute has been issued is the divorce finalised.

Parties sometimes prefer to defer applying for the Decree Absolute if financial aspects of the divorce have not been resolved, and will await an outcome on finances before finalising the divorce.

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