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Getting a divorce: where to start

Getting divorced can be intimidating and is usually an emotional time for everyone involved. The divorce process can seem complicated and confusing, but making sure you understand exactly what to expect and what you need to do can help reduce the stress. 

To that end, we have broken down the basics of what you need to do to start divorce proceedings, and how to respond to divorce proceedings initiated by your spouse.

How to start divorce proceedings

To begin divorce proceedings, you need to fill in a divorce petition and submit this to your nearest divorce centre. This form will need to show that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. 

The petition needs to be based on one of the 5 possible grounds for divorce, which are:

  • Unreasonable behaviour from your spouse
  • Adultery on the part of your spouse (note that this only applies if they had sex with someone of the opposite sex, and is not applicable in the case of a Civil Partnership dissolution)
  • You have been deserted by your partner for 2 years out of the last 2.5 years
  • You have been living separately from each other for 5 years (without need for consent from your spouse)
  • You have been living separately from each other for 2 years and your spouse consents to the divorce

If your partner doesn’t dispute the divorce, or the reasons for it that you stated, you will be granted a decree nisi. If they do dispute the divorce or the contents of your petition, you can still get a decree nisi, but you will have to go to mediation or to court to discuss the case. 

You can apply for a decree absolute 6 weeks after you have been granted the decree nisi – this will legally end your marriage. Many people choose to get help from a solicitor when filling out the divorce petition to help make their petition as strong as possible. This can reduce the chances of the petition being rejected by a judge or challenged by your spouse.

What to do if your partner has started divorce proceedings

If you have been notified that your partner has filed for divorce, you have two options:

Agree with the divorce

If you agree to the divorce, you need to fill in and return the Acknowledgement of Service form to the divorce centre within 8 days of receiving it.

Disagree with the divorce

If you disagree with the divorce you need to fill in and return the acknowledgement, but also fill in the section that states you are defending the divorce. You will then have 21 days to say why you are defending the divorce, which you do by filling in an Answer to Divorce petition.

If your partner has already filed for divorce, but you have evidence of adultery or unreasonable behaviour on their part, you can also start your own divorce proceedings. To do this you will need to fill in your own Divorce Petition form.

If both you and your partner file divorce petitions, or the divorce petition is defended, then you will need to go to mediation or to court. A solicitor can help guide you through this process and give you the best possible chance of a fair outcome. 

Using mediation for divorce

Mediation is a voluntary, flexible and confidential process where you and your spouse work out what is best for both of you and any children you have. You, your spouse and a mediator will work through the issues you need to resolve to make the process as amicable and cost-effective as possible.

During mediation you will be able to work out agreements over the distribution of property, child custody and visiting rights, child maintenance, retirement and any tax issues.

The mediator works to keep communication between you and your spouse, focusing on the issues on hand, so the process remains non-confrontational and productive. The mediator does not work for either party, remaining neutral. This means they will not be able to give advice to either party.

In most cases, you will need to show that you have considered mediation before you can have your case heard in court. This involves going to a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) to see if mediation is right for you. You may be able to skip this step if you can demonstrate that mediation is not appropriate in your case e.g. where there have been instances of domestic abuse.

Get expert legal help with your divorce

Crisp & Co’s highly experienced divorce solicitors work within the Resolution Family Law Group protocol to minimise the emotional distress of divorce. We can support you during every step of the divorce process to make getting divorced as straightforward and stress-free as possible while protecting your interests. 

Our team includes a number of trained mediators, so we can keep your divorce non-confrontational wherever possible. This is often the fastest, most cost-effective way to legally end your relationship. However, where going to court is the best or only option, we will put together the strongest possible case on your behalf, helping you to get the fair settlement you deserve.

Speak to one of our expert divorce solicitors today by calling 020 3281 7887 or using the contact form below for a quick response.

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