If you and your spouse agree to a divorce, you need to decide who will do the divorcing. The person who brings the divorce petition to court is the Petitioner and the other person is the Respondent. Your solicitor should prepare your divorce petition for you. It is a technical document and we do not recommend that you do this yourself. The petition needs to be filed in the appropriate county court with your marriage certificate and a written explanation of your proposals concerning any children of the family under 16 or in full time education if over 16. This document is called a Statement of Arrangements and covers where the children live, what the schooling arrangements are and when/where contact takes place between the children and the parent with whom the children no longer live.

The divorce petition and supporting documentation are filed in the court with payment for the court fee. The court sends the papers to the other spouse by post or by bailiff service if necessary. If another person has been named in the divorce (usually in cases of adultery) proceedings are served on that person too.

The other spouse can then respond by agreeing to the divorce and filling in a form saying so, or by defending the divorce. He or she has an opportunity to respond to the arrangements suggested for the children (which is why it makes so much sense to discuss these beforehand).

When you have received a written consent to the case going ahead, you need to complete a sworn statement before an independent solicitor identifying your spouse’s handwriting and signature. The sworn statement must then be returned to the court with a request that the divorce be entered into the special procedure list (though since almost all divorces go into the special procedure list, it is in reality the standard practice).

A Judge then reviews any arrangements for the children and provided these seem satisfactory, the divorce can proceed. The case is given a decree nisi (or initial declaration of divorce) which can be made final after six weeks have passed.

The final decree is the “Decree Absolute of Divorce” and you are both legally free to remarry at this stage, but not beforehand. If would be wise to consider altering any Will you have already made to take into account the divorce or to make a Will if you do not have one. (see our Wills and Probate page).

It is the decree nisi which gives the court is wide ranging powers to deal with the family finances. You should also be aware that it is sometimes tactically advantageous to postpone application for the decree absolute, though the Respondent can apply for it to be granted after 18 weeks.