The divorce process can be a long and complicated one. It’s best, therefore, to know exactly what you’re getting into and the best way to proceed.
The first stage is when one party decides they want a divorce. It’s best to first consult a legal advisor who will be explain the whole process in detail and with reference to individual situations at this stage. If possible, the ‘petitioner’ – that is, the party who initiates the divorce – should try and agree on the financial arrangements and arrangements for children at this stage with the ‘respondent’ – the party who is being divorced. This is because the statements and petition for divorce will need to outline certain details of the arrangement. It may not be possible to come to an agreement at this stage, however. There are several specialist law firms based in Leeds; family law solicitors working for these firms can give further information on initiating divorce.
The petitioner then obtains the form for a divorce – the petition and lodges this with the court office. Along with this, there should be a copy for the respondent (and co-respondent if there is an alleged case of adultery), a copy of the marriage certificate, and a statement of the arrangements for children. The court will not interfere with the arrangements for children unless it is absolutely necessary. The court fee must also be paid at this time. Currently this is around £300 to £400. This can sometimes be refunded by legal aid, but it still must be paid up front at the time. Check with your legal advisor or one of Leed’s family law solicitors to see if you are likely to be awarded a refund for your court fee.
The respondent (and co-respondent) then has eight days to reply to the petition. If they so desire, they can propose alternative arrangements for children at this stage. However, it is usually far easier for everyone involved if both parties can come to a mutually beneficial agreement on the arrangements for children beforehand. Family solicitors in Leeds warn that the welfare and feelings of the children themselves should be their priority when coming to these agreements, rather than any attempts at one-upmanship between themselves.
The respondent will then state whether or not they intend to contest the divorce. Contesting means that they don’t wish the divorce to be granted. Very few divorces are contested these days, however the respondent may not agree with the reason the petitioner has given for the divorce. At the moment, there are only five conditions where a divorce will be granted. Two of which can be granted immediately, and three can only be granted after a certain period of time has elapsed. The first two are adultery and unreasonable behaviour. The rest are variations of abandonment and separation.
If the divorce is uncontested, the judge will read all documentation and decide whether there is grounds for a divorce. If the judge agrees that there is, he or she will then examine the proposed arrangements for children to ensure that the welfare of the children has been taken into full account. If the judge is satisfied, he or she will then set a date for the decree nisi to be pronounced. Nothing more then has to be done by either petitioner or respondent. After six weeks, the petitioner is allowed to apply for the decree absolute that certifies the marriage is over. If the petitioner does not do this, the respondent is then allowed to apply after three months. Before it the decree absolute will be pronounced, the court will check to make sure there are no reasons for why the divorce should not be allowed at this stage, and if there are none, the divorce will go ahead.