7 steps to filing for divorce in England & Wales

by Philippa Pearson, family law solicitor

 An excerpt from Lawpack's Separation & DIY Divorce Kit.

Getting a divorce in England & Wales isn't a complicated procedure. Read our seven simple steps to how you can apply for divorce through the courts.

1. Find your marriage certificate

You need your marriage certificate because you have to file it at court when you start your divorce petition. If you've lost your marriage certificate, you can easily obtain a certified copy from the General Register Office.

If you were married outside of England and Wales, you need to get a certified copy of your marriage certificate from the country where you were married.

2. Start your divorce petition in court

You can start your divorce either in the Principal Registry in London, or any divorce County court.

While you can file your divorce petition in any divorce County court, it's best to choose a court most convenient to where you live because you may need to make several visits to court before the divorce is completed.

To file your divorce petition at court, you will need the following divorce form:

  • Form D8: the Divorce Petition

All the divorce forms you will need - and expert guidance on how to use them - can be found in Lawpack's Separation & DIY Divorce Kit

If you need assistance in completing the forms, then you can use our DIY Divorce service who will complete them for you. With our Managed Divorce Service they will complete them and also file them at court for you.

3. Give notice of the divorce petition to your spouse

Once your divorce forms have been completed, your next step is to serve the divorce petition on your spouse.

Sending the divorce petition to your spouse is the responsibility of the court, but it's your responsibility to provide the court with the
correct address.

You should think about sending a draft petition to your spouse and discussing the contents of the draft petition with them before issuing the petition to prevent any unnecessary unpleasantness.

The court will send you a Notice of Issue of Petition  once the divorce petition has been sent to your spouse. This usually occurs about a week after you file your divorce petition in court.

The court will at the same time post a copy of your divorce petition to your spouse (and any named co-respondent) with an Acknowledgement of Service Form for your spouse to complete.

Your spouse, as Respondent, has seven days from the day the petition was received to return the Acknowledgement of Service.

4. Handling your spouse's response to the divorce petition

Once your petition is posted to your spouse, one of the following events may occur:

  • The petition may not be responded to, either because it wasn't delivered or because it was ignored

    Assuming the petition hasn't been returned to the court by the Post Office as undeliverable, you must wait eight days for your spouse to acknowledge receipt.

    If the petition apparently has been received but your spouse doesn't acknowledge receipt, then you must arrange for your spouse to be served in such a way that you can prove service.

  • Your spouse acknowledges service and intends to defend against divorce

    If your spouse outlines on the Acknowledgement of Service that they intend to contest the divorce, then you must wait 29 days from the day your spouse received the divorce petition and if you don't receive an answer (or ‘defence to the divorce’) after 29 days, you can ask the court for directions for trial.

    If you do receive an answer or defence, then you should consult a solicitor to represent you as proceedings from this point onward can be quite technical. You may seek an order for costs
    if the proceedings are defended, to encourage the other side to agree to divorce.

  • Your spouse acknowledges service and doesn't intend to contest the divorce

    If your spouse doesn't intend to contest the divorce, you can then immediately ask the court to rule whether the reasons stated in your petition are sufficient for the divorce to be granted, and your proposed arrangements for the financial and custodial care of your children are satisfactory.

    This process is referred to as ‘applying for directions for Decree Nisi'.

5. Applying for Decree Nisi

To apply for Decree Nisi you need to complete the following divorce forms:

  • Form D84: an Application for a Decree Nisi
  • Form D80A through to D80E: a Statement in Support of Divorce/Dissolution/Judicial Separation 

The Forms D80A through D80E coincide with the five facts for divorce. Be sure to use the Form D80 that correlates to the facts used to support the ground for your divorce petition.

6. Getting your Decree Nisi granted

Once your Forms D84 and D80 (and supporting documents) are completed, send them to the court stating that your divorce is undefended.

Your complete file will then be examined by the judge, who will consider whether your documents are satisfactorily completed, you have proper grounds for divorce and the proposed arrangements for your children are in their best interests. 

Your Decree Nisi will be sent by the court to you, your spouse (and any co-respondent) shortly after the judge decides that you have satisfied the requirements for divorce. Pronouncement of your Decree Nisi usually takes about two months from the date you first file your Application for a Decree Nisi.

7. Obtaining your Decree Absolute

You're not divorced until your Decree Absolute is issued.

If you are the petitioner, you can apply for your Decree Absolute six weeks and one day after your Decree Nisi is granted. You cannot apply earlier. 

If you are the Respondent, you cannot apply for the Decree Absolute until four-and-a-half months have passed after the pronouncement of the Decree Nisi. 

It's easy to apply for your Decree Absolute, if you are the Petitioner. You simply need to file Form D36: a Notice of Application for Decree Nisi to be made Absolute with the court.

Finally, you will be sent by the court a Decree Absolute which officially ends your marriage.

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Published on: April 24, 2012

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