If you have been married for at least one year and believe that your marriage has come to an end, you can issue divorce proceedings.

Grounds for divorce

If you want to obtain a divorce in England or Wales you must prove that your marriage has irretrievably broken down. You can establish irretrievable breakdown by proving one of the following five facts:

  • your husband or wife has committed adultery and you find it intolerable to live with them
  • your husband or wife has behaved in such a manner that you cannot be reasonably expected to live with them (unreasonable behaviour)
  • you have lived apart for two years and you both agree to there being a divorce
  • your husband or wife has deserted you for a period of two years or more
  • you have lived apart for five years or more – a divorce can be secured whether or not your husband or wife agrees to a divorce.

Unless you and your spouse have lived apart for two years or more, to secure a divorce in England and Wales, it is necessary to show some form of fault, i.e., either adultery or unreasonable behaviour. Phrases
such as “irreconcilable differences” and “mental cruelty” have no place in English law – they are American legal ideas.

Divorce Procedure

For most people the divorce procedure is very straightforward. Usually no attendance is required at court by you, your spouse or by your divorce solicitor. The entire divorce process takes approximately four to six months from start to finish, although in many divorces the process can take nearer to 12 months this being the time that it often takes to resolve the financial aspects of your divorce.

Nearly all of the steps in the divorce are dealt with by the person who starts the divorce process (the Petitioner). The other person (the Respondent) takes very few steps.

The divorce procedure is as follows:

Divorce Petition

- Your divorce petition, based upon one of the grounds detailed above, is sent to court to start the court process. The original marriage certificate also needs to be sent to court. Where there are children, a document called the Statement of Arrangements for Children must also be completed by you and sent to court

Acknowledgement of Service – your spouse, the Respondent, will be sent your divorce petition and other documents by the court. Your spouse then needs to complete a short form called the Acknowledgement of Service in which they confirm that they have received your divorce petition

Decree Nisi – once your spouse has completed the Acknowledgement of Service and returned it to court, you can apply for decree nisi of divorce. To do this you will need to swear a short statement confirming the contents of your divorce petition under oath. This statement accompanies the application to the court for decree nisi.

Decree nisi is pronounced in open court, although it is not necessary for you or your solicitor to attend this hearing

Decree Absolute

- the decree absolute is the final decree of divorce which ends your marriage. It can be applied for by you, the Petitioner, a minimum of six weeks and one day after the pronouncement of decree nisi. If you have not agreed the financial aspects of your divorce at this stage, the application for decree absolute may be delayed until that financial settlement has been reached