If you are divorcing your spouse, you need to send a divorce petition, court fees, a copy of your marriage certificate, plus a document called ‘a statement of arrangements’ for the children to the court. You will then receive a notice of issue of petition from the court to confirm receipt of your petition and to say that a copy of it has been sent to the respondent.

Your ex could defend the divorce by responding within 28 days of receiving the petition. It is unusual, but it could be done for tactical reasons whilst costs or another issue is sorted.

An undefended divorce is dealt with in the divorce county court or the Principal Registry in London. It is hard to think of any circumstances in which defending a divorce is going to be worth the pain and costs, not least because the eventual hearing will be in public.

If you and your ex agree to break-up, then the court will grant what is known as a ‘decree nisi’, after having considered the petition. The court will have to be satisfied as to arrangements concerning children. Exceptionally if the judge is not satisfied, he can order you and your ex to come to court to explain what is happening about the children. The judge can hold up the divorce until he is happy with the arrangements. After a further period of six weeks following the decree nisi, the petitioner can apply for a court order known as a ‘decree absolute’, legal confirmation of the split. No court hearing is needed. You are now free to marry again or enter into a civil partnership.

Thanks very much to Punam Denley, a partner at the International Family Law Group LLP for reviewing and to David Hodson, also partner at the International Family Law Group LLP, who reviewed an earlier version which appeared in A Parent’s Guide to the Law by Jon Robins (LawPack , 2009).  Stephen Lawson, a litigation partner at Forshaws Davies Ridgway LLP assisted with the section on the CSA.

Author: Jon Robins

Jon is editor of the Justice Gap. He is a freelance journalist. Jon’s books include The First Miscarriage of Justice (Waterside Press, 2014), The Justice Gap (LAG, 2009) and People Power (Daily Telegraph/LawPack, 2008). Jon is a journalism lecturer at Winchester University and a visiting senior fellow in access to justice at the University of Lincoln. He is twice winner of the Bar Council’s journalism award (2015 and 2005) and is shortlisted for this year’s Criminal Justice Alliance’s journalism award

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