In England and Wales the divorce process has three stages. The first stage is the issue of the divorce petition. Some people wrongly think that a petition can be filed on irreconcilable differences. Whilst there is a lot of support for no fault divorce, this is not the situation at the present time.

Grounds for Divorce

The ground for divorce is that the marriage has broken down irretrievably but the party filing the petition (known as the petitioner) needs to cite one or more of the following grounds:

  • Adultery;
  • Desertion for a period of two years;
  • Unreasonable behaviour;
  • Two years’ separation by consent;
  • Five years’ separation without consent.

Decree Nisi

This is the second stage in the process having filed the petition. A Decree Nisi is rather like a provisional driving licence. The parties are almost divorced but not quite. If the parties decide to reconcile, which does happen on occasions, then they can apply to rescind the Decree Nisi and will still be married. The court can deal with a financial order once a Decree Nisi has been granted so the court has power to deal with the transfer of properties, maintenance, payment of a lump sum, pension sharing order, etc.

Decree Absolute

This is the final stage in the divorce process. The petitioner is the person who filed the petition with the marriage certificate and court fee. The petitioner can apply for the Decree to be made absolute six weeks and one day from the date the Decree Nisi was pronounced. The court seals and issues the Decree Absolute. On some occasions the petitioner fails or refuses to apply for the Decree Absolute and in these circumstances the other party (known as the respondent) can apply three months from the date that the petitioner could have applied, so a total of four months, two weeks and a day. If a year has passed since the Decree Nisi was granted then its necessary to apply to the court for leave and to explain why there has been a delay.

Sometimes parties agree to delay Decree Absolute, for example if they have not resolved financial matters or it may be there is a substantial pension and rights can be lost if there is Decree Absolute, so they delay it pending agreement in relation to financial matters.

It is important to check the legal position if you are going to remarry as remarriage can prevent financial claims in certain circumstances.

For more information about the divorce process, please contact a member of our team.