Court Process Related to Divorce
Many people feel very scared of divorce because they do not know the legal process associated with it. It is common for people to believe that divorce is very complex. However, truth is that once you are aware of the legal nitty-gritty, divorce will seem much more simple.
Typically, a divorce process can last between 5 to 8 months. However, it can last longer if you and your spouse do not agree on certain aspects of divorce. Usually issues related to child custody and division of assets are a cause of friction between divorcing couples. Therefore, if you can work out an arrangement on these issues with your partner amicably, you can most likely avoid lengthy court battles.
For seeking divorce, the first thing you need to do is file a divorce petition. A petition describes and proves the grounds for divorce. In England and Wales, there are five acceptable grounds for divorce. These include:
- Unreasonable Behaviour
- Two years' separation (when both the partners consent for divorce)
- Five years' separation (when one of the partners does not consent for divorce)
- Desertion (for more than 2 years)
Ideally, the partners should discuss the petition before submitting it so they can agree on the grounds for divorce.
Statement of Arrangements for Children
You will need to submit a Statement of Arrangements to the court if you have children. This statement basically details the children's current circumstances and plans for their future arrangements. It is common for couples to sign an informal agreement, which subsequently forms the basis of a court order.
It would be best to consult your solicitor before reaching an agreement. If you cannot reach a mutual decision, you and your partner can submit separate proposals to the court. In such cases, the judge makes the final decision. You will need to hand a copy of your marriage certificate along with this documentation. The court fee will be £300.
Division of assets and property forms an important part of an informal separation agreement. When partners cannot agree on division of assets and property, they can apply to the court for a financial order, also called Ancillary Relief. You might need to pay a small fee for this.
The process of applying for Ancillary Relief can be done during or after your divorce. As part of the application, you and your partner will need to provide financial statements that contain complete details about all property, pensions, savings, earnings, as well as debts.
Acknowledgment, Affidavit, and Application for Directions
The court will check all your documents, send them to the other party and wait for a formal acknowledgement. This process can take up to 4 weeks. When the court receives the acknowledgement from the other party, it takes a further 3 weeks for the court to send the copies of both the partners' statements and proposals.
In addition, the court will also send two blank copies of an Affidavit and an Application for directions. You will need to complete the Affidavit and have it sworn in. You will also need to submit the Application for Directions.
Within four weeks of receiving these documents, the court will decide on whether to grant a Decree Nisi. The court will most likely not interfere if the arrangements for your children have been agreed upon mutually. However, if you have not agreed on an arrangement, you will be asked to attend the court.
There are various child orders related to childcare, contact, maintenance payments as well as residency. The court process starts with a Conciliation Appointment. If couples cannot reach an agreement, a CAFCASS officer is appointed to talk to the parties involved.
When both the parties cannot reach an agreement, the CAFASS officer makes a recommendation to the court and the court gets to decide on the child orders
In case of financial disputes, the court will ask both the partners to attend a First Appointment. At this appointment, the judge will either arrange a Financial Dispute Resolution, make a final hearing if both the partners reach an agreement, or adjourn your case so that you can seek independent mediation.
The final order will not be made until Decree Nisi has been pronounced. In fact, in some cases it is not made until Decree Absolute has been pronounced.
After six weeks and one day from Decree Nisi, the petitioner can apply for a Decree Absolute. A Decree Absolute results in divorce. There is no hearing involved. When you are granted the decree, you need to submit £40 along with the application.