Either party to a marriage may apply to the Court in England or Wales for a divorce petition to be issued provided both parties are habitually resident or domiciled here or one party is domiciled here and, if that party is the petitioner, has been habitually resident here for at least six months or, if neither party is domiciled here, the petitioner has been habitually resident here for at least one year before the application to the Court is made.
It is not possible to start divorce proceedings within the first year of the marriage.
The application is made in the County Court.
The divorce process has two main stages:
- Decree nisi: Granted by the Court once it is satisfied that the ground for divorce has been established; and
- Decree absolute: The divorce is not final until the decree nisi is made absolute by the court. It is then irrevocable. For this reason it is important not to apply for the decree absolute until the financial arrangements have been resolved between the parties.
The length of time it takes to obtain a divorce varies from Court to Court in each individual case. It is impossible to predict exactly how long it will take since issues may arise during the proceedings, which cause delay. As an indication, it is likely to take around three to six months. It is possible to apply for the decree absolute to be expedited in certain circumstances should the need arise.
Financial and child related matters are dealt with in separate proceedings to the divorce and have a separate timescale of their own.
Grounds for Divorce
There is only one ground for divorce, which is that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. The petitioner must provide evidence that this has happened by proving one of the following five facts:
- Adultery: The respondent has committed adultery and the petitioner finds it intolerable to live with the respondent
- Unreasonable Behaviour: The respondent has behaved in such a way that the petitioner cannot reasonably be expected to live with the respondent
- Desertion: The respondent has deserted the petitioner for a period of two years
- Two years separation: The parties have lived apart for two years and the respondent consents to a divorce
- Five years separation: The parties have lived apart for five years
If a couple live together for more than six months after either the last act of unreasonable behaviour or the discovery of the last act of adultery, then that evidence cannot be used for divorce proceedings. Similarly, a period of separation would be disregarded if the couple subsequently lived together for a period of at least six months.
We hope this divorce guide has been helpful, if you would like more information or to book an appointment with our family solicitor please call 01202 802807.