One of the things our clients are frequently surprised by in our Introductory Sessions is how separate the divorce procedure is from the process of negotiating a financial settlement. Our experienced and specialist family law barristers can assist with the latter; helping you to reach a fair and non-adversarial settlement of your finances. However, it is often easier and cheaper for couples to sort out their divorce for themselves. This guide will walk you through how to file a divorce petition in the courts of England and Wales.
There are a number of options we frequently outline for clients:
Large amounts of work has been done by the government to streamline and modernise the divorce process. It can now be done online using the government’s online portal at: https://www.gov.uk/divorce. The reality is that a divorce petition is largely a form filling exercise, especially if you are a couple who has been separated 2 years (with each other’s consent), therefore making an unreasonable behaviour petition (which by nature involves the drafting of allegations) unnecessary.
There will already be an administrative fee of £550 for the filing of a divorce petition – why pay more?
If you would like some assistance in getting the petition drafted and the process managed, particularly if you need to draft allegations of behaviour, a cost effective option could be to use a divorce coach. These are usually non-lawyers but who have experience of the divorce process and can offer support in preparing paperwork, navigating the process and signposting you to other support you may need, for instance emotional support or co-parenting advice.
This is the more costly option but is undoubtedly better suited for some clients. Some clients simply prefer the protection of a lawyer being involved. If you are petitioning on the grounds of unreasonable behaviour for example (perhaps because you have not been separated for the requisite 2 years needed before you can petition without alleging this), it may be that you prefer a solicitor to draft the particulars on your behalf.
Further, some solicitors do reasonable fixed-fees, which involves management of the whole process. This includes chasing the court for an update on the status of your petition, for example, or applying for Decree Nisi on your behalf.
Beware however that one of you will need to appoint a solicitor; they cannot act for the both of you.
Whichever method you choose, it is best to get the petition sent off as quickly as possible. The court cannot make a financial order without Decree Nisi, and any financial order will not be enforceable without Decree Absolute. For further detail on what this means, and divorce process itself, see our handy blog: ‘The legal steps of divorce/ dissolving a civil partnership.’