Stages of Divorce

To obtain a divorce in England and Wales, married couples have to follow a prescribed divorce process or procedure. Before starting the legal process, you should discuss your circumstances with a family solicitor. If you decide to divorce, you will follow the stages of divorce outlined below.

Filing for Divorce

To file for a divorce you need to decide on the reasons for your divorce and complete the appropriate divorce petition. This is sent to the Court together with the current Court fee (£550) and your marriage certificate. We recommend you ask a solicitor to help you complete the forms. The Court staff generally do not give advice on how to fill in these forms correctly.

Serving Divorce Papers

The Court will send a copy of the divorce papers to the Respondent. This is often referred to as the service of divorce papers. If the Respondent does not acknowledge receipt of the documents then the divorce papers may need to be served personally. Sometimes our clients worry because they do not know where the Respondent is. It is still possible to divorce a missing spouse but we will need to make a separate application to the Court.

Applying for Decree Nisi

After service of the divorce papers, we will need to complete a number of other forms so you can apply for the Decree Nisi. You can apply for a Decree Nisi if your spouse agrees to the divorce petition you have made or we can apply to the court. This is generally the halfway stage of the divorce process.

Decree Nisi

The Decree Nisi is a document which is given by the court. It is pronounced once the Court is satisfied that you are entitled to a divorce. It is not the same as the final divorce. At any time after the Decree Nisi is pronounced the parties can file a consent order with the Court that deals with the financial arrangements they have agreed.

Decree Absolute

The Decree Absolute is the final stage in the divorce process. You can apply for this, 43 days after the Decree Nisi but we do not usually recommend that you move forward until you have agreed on your divorce settlement including financial arrangements. If you do, it may affect your entitlement to certain assets of the marriage. We can advise you about this. If you wait for longer than 12 months between receiving your Decree Nisi and your applying for your Decree Absolute, we will need to explain the delay to the court.

We have also prepared a helpful leaflet (PDF) to explain the stages of divorce and the procedure in more detail and you can also find out more about the costs of divorce.

Whatever your situation, Cotswold Family Law can offer you expert and practical advice. You can also contact us to make an appointment with us for personal advice.