How long it takes to obtain a divorce in England?
When you have decided that it’s time to sever the knot, this is the million dollar question. To give you an answer, we thought it would be helpful to outline the process and steps you would need to go through and a general indication of roughly how long each step could take in the order that they are taken:
- File a petition at court – once the court is satisfied as to it’s content, they will issue the petition, give it a unique case number and post it to the Respondent together with a document called an ‘acknowledgement of service form’ – similar to a receipt. Form filing to issue, the court can take between 3-4 weeks.
- On receipt, the Respondent has to complete, sign and indicate on the form whether they want to defend the petition or not and then return to the court office. If the Respondent is resident in the UK, then s/he will have 14 days in which to reply. S/he may at this point consult a solicitor if they have not done so already. Whether they do in fact return the Acknowledgment within the 14 days varies greatly and much depends on how the matter has been handled up until that point.
- When the Acknowledgment of Service is returned to the court, a copy will be sent to the Petitioner (or the Petitioner’s solicitor if the Petitioner is legally represented). Assuming that the Respondent has indicated that s/he will not be defending the petition (as is usually the case), then the Petitioner is in a position to file their application for decree nisi – the first part of the divorce. The application is supported by a statement which will confirm that the contents of the divorce petition are correct and that the signature which appears on the Acknowledgment of Service is that of the Respondent. Once filed, the court can take anywhere from 8-12 weeks to respond to the application.
- When considering the application, the court looks at many things such as whether any relevant dates given are correct, whether the Petitioner has satisfied the legal requirements of the fact relied upon for the divorce and various other matters. If the Judge decides that all is in order, then s/he will make an order for the pronouncement of the decree nisi in open court. This does not mean there is any attendance at court, but rather that the court will give effect to the decree nisi in the parties absence on a day it allocates. This is usually 3-4 weeks later or longer depending on the court’s timetable.
- After the pronouncement of the decree nisi, a certificate is provided to show that this has been done. The Petitioner then has to wait 6 weeks and 1 day after which s/he can apply for the final certificate – the decree absolute. The time limit of six weeks is compulsory and cannot be abridged without very good reason. The application is simple and from the point of filing, is usually granted within 1-2 weeks. Only on the granting of the decree absolute will the marriage be considered terminated and the parties then free to remarry.
The divorce process itself is not complicated per se but many factors can affect the timetable including but not limited to – incomplete or wrongly completed documents, the co-operation or lack of co-operation of both or one of the parties, service and acknowledgement of documents, the court’s own timetable, jurisdictional and residency issues and more importantly outstanding financial matters that need resolving within the divorce application.
Any of these issues are likely to either halt or disrupt the process usually resulting in inevitable but necessary delays and costs for both parties much of which can be managed by an efficient, proactive and experienced solicitor who can pre-empt those tricky issues and nip them in the bud.