To apply for a divorce, you must have been married to your spouse for at least one year. If you have not been married for at least a year, you can consider alternative options such as annulment or separation.
What grounds of divorce can I rely on?
Divorce can only be obtained if you can prove to the court that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. As evidence of the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage, you must satisfy the court of one of five facts:
- Your spouse has committed adultery and you find it intolerable to live with them
- Your spouse has behaved in such a way that you cannot reasonably be expected to live with them
- Your spouse has deserted you for a continuous period of at least two years immediately preceding the presentation of the divorce application
- You and your spouse have lived apart for a continuous period of at least two years immediately preceding the presentation of the application and your spouse consents to the divorce
- You and your spouse have lived apart for a continuous period of at least five years immediately preceding the presentation of the divorce application
The court staff will consider the basic information in the application and then arrange for service of the divorce papers on your spouse, which will be by standard post. In some circumstances it is more appropriate for solicitors to request for the issued papers to all be returned and for the solicitors to deal with service - for example if a spouse lives abroad.
Alongside the issued divorce petition, the court will provide an Acknowledgement of Service for your spouse to complete and return to the court, asking a few simple questions and allowing your spouse to indicate the divorce papers have been received and if they are defending the application.
If your spouse does not return the Acknowledgement of Service, other methods of service will need to be explored to demonstrate to the court that your spouse is aware of the petition, or if all options are exhausted consideration needs to be made to apply to dispense with service.
As soon as the court is satisfied that the papers have been served on your spouse or your spouse is aware that there is a petition you will be entitled to apply for Decree Nisi. It is at this stage that your divorce papers are considered by the court in detail to see if the divorce should be granted.
If the court is satisfied that you would have proved that the marriage has irretrievably broken down because of the fact on which you are basing the divorce the Decree Nisi will be granted. You will not need to attend court on this day unless there are issues such as opposing payment of the divorce application costs.
You will be able to apply for Decree Absolute after a period of six weeks and one day. If you do not apply for the Decree Absolute, then your spouse will need to wait a minimum of three months from the date of the Decree Nisi after which they will be entitled to apply for the Decree Absolute. Once the Decree Absolute is granted the marriage will be dissolved. However, it is usual for parties to agree not to apply for the Decree Absolute until financial matters are settled.
In terms of timescales, if a divorce is uncontested and if there is no delay on the part of the court or your spouse, it can usually be completed within six to nine months.
The above may appear to be straightforward however divorce law can be complex especially if there are jurisdictional or financial matters.
It is highly recommended that you speak to a qualified and accredited divorce solicitor before proceeding with a divorce.