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In order to commence proceedings, you must issue a petition. In the petition you have to prove to the court that your marriage has broken down irretrievably. The court cannot hold that the marriage has broken down irretrievably unless one or more of five facts have been pleaded in a divorce petition. These are:


  1. The respondent has committed adultery. 
  2. The respondent has behaviour is in such that the petitioner cannot reasonably be expected to live with him.  .
  3. The respondent disserted the petitioner for a continuous period of at least two years. 
  4. The parties to the marriage have lived apart for a continuous period of two years preceding presentation of the petition on the grounds of two years separation by consent. 
  5. The parties to the marriage have lived apart for a continuous period of five years preceding the presentation of the petition

(The law is changing see the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 referred to below)

In order for a petition to succeed, one of the five facts must be proved.

To commencing divorce proceedings the petitioner will have to complete the petition and file it with the relevant documentation at the Family Court. The petition will be allocated a court number. It will then be posted with to the respondent (person who accepts the petition) for him to confirm receipt and that he does not intend to defend the claim.

Provided there is no dispute, the applicant (petitioner) will apply for decree nisi. Provided the Judge is happy with all the relevant paperwork; decree nisi will be granted. Both parties will informed by the court decree nisi has been granted.

Six weeks later, the petitioner can apply for the decree nisi to be made absolute. Provided there are no outstanding matters and the court accepts the application, decree absolute will be granted. Copies of the decree will be sent to both parties.

The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 has removed the need for the parties to blame each other for the end of the marriage. It creates a “no fault” divorce. One party or both parties can apply for the marriage to come to an end (New name, Statement marriage has divorces broken down). Once the divorce application is made this is evidence that the marriage has broken down divorces. There is a 20 week period of reflection and  after this, the decree nisi (new name: Conditional Divorce Order) will be granted. You will have to wait 6 weeks thereafter for the decree absolute (new name Final Divorce Order).

Removal of the fault facts is to encourage amicable divorces.

The start date for the new divorce rules has changed to April 2022 to enable the courts to put the new systems in place. The whole system will not start properly until Autumn 2022.

Children of the family

You will have to identify the children of the family in any divorce proceedings. The court expects parents to agree with each other regarding the arrangements for the children of the family. That is the whole purpose behind the push for mediation. A mediator will help if parents cannot agree. If no agreement is reached regarding the children; then a separate application will have to be made. Please refer to our guide on children.