The Divorce process

(This is a simple guide to a non-contested divorce where everything is resolved in Mediation. It is NOT intended to be legal advice. The forms and fees are correct as of January 2013 but often change, especially each April)

The divorce process can be divided into three separate but related parts:

1. The divorce itself, the actual legal dissolution of your marriage (If you entered into a Civil Partnership, your 'divorce' is legally termed a Dissolution)

2. The arrangements for your children, whether they are children born before or during the marriage and if the child has lived with you, whether or not you are the actual parents.

3. The financial arrangements for yourselves and any children following the divorce.

Mediation can assist with all three parts: the more that you are able to resolve before the legal proceedings begin, the less expensive the process becomes, both on financial and emotional terms.

1. The divorce itself: In English law, there are 5 grounds for divorce, but the most common three are adultery, unreasonable behaviour and 2 years separation with both parties wishing to divorce. These must be coupled with a statement that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. The latter is perhaps the least upsetting and provides time for the separating family to find the way forward.

The grounds for a divorce can often form part of a couple's agenda for mediation. Once the grounds are decided upon, the parties can decide whether to instruct solicitors to prepare the Court documentation or to attempt it themselves. The forms and explanatory leaflets are all downloadable from The Petition is Form D8.

2. The Children - all of our mediators are very experienced in assisting separating parents find solutions for the future parenting of their children. As part of your divorce documentation, you will be required to file a Statement of Arrangements for the Children (Form D8a) which looks more complicated than it is. It often helps to read it through a couple of times before filling it in. Ideally, it should be signed as an agreed statement by both parties of the marriage, even if one of the parties is not the actual parent. Arrangements for the time the children spend with each parent and their financial support form a large part of many couple's mediation agenda, where parents are often able to discuss and find options for future shared parenting which are best suited to their particular circumstances.

So, if you have decided to proceed with the Divorce/Dissolution yourself, you will need to take to the Court a completed Petition and (if relevant) a Statement of Arrangements (with 2 copies), a Marriage Certificate (not a photocopy) and the Court fee of 340. If everything is in order, the Court will 'issue' your proceedings and give them a case number. This number is vital and will need to be used on all communications with the Court. The person who has signed the Petition is known as the Petitioner, the other person is the Respondent.

The Court will send a copy of the Petition and Statement of Arrangements to the Respondent with a straightforward form called an Acknowledgment, which needs to be completed and signed by the Respondent and returned to the Court. The Court then sends a copy of the Acknowledgment to the Petitioner. Depending on the grounds of your divorce, the next stage is to prepare and swear an Affidavit (form available from the website) confirming that everything in your Petition is true, together with some other details. Once this is returned to the Court, the file is put before a Judge and so long as s/he is satisfied that the procedures are all correct and the contents of your documents are true and sufficient, a date for the pronouncement of a Decree nisi will be set, without the need for either of you to attend the Court.

3. Financial Arrangements: Once your decree Nisi is pronounced, the court will be able to make a financial Order. If your financial arrangements have all been resolved through mediation, it is at this stage that your solicitor will be able to draw up your mediated agreement into the proper form for a Court Order. It is not recommended that you attempt to deal with this aspect yourself, as there are several things that need to be in the Order, especially if it is to reflect a legal Clean Break between you. Your mediator will have recommended that you seek legal advice throughout the mediation process. The Court staff are not able to offer legal advice. If financial arrangements are resolved and are able to be sent to Court as a Consent Order, there is a further Court fee of 45, which is significantly cheaper than the fee for a contested financial matter.

To finalise, the Petitioner can ask the Court to make the decree nisi a final decree, Decree Absolute, 6 weeks and 1 day after Nisi was pronounced. There is a fee of 45 for this and the form is D36. Some couples choose to wait for the final decree once everything else is resolved.

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