The Legal Steps Of Divorce / Dissolving A Civil Partnership

Step 1: The Divorce/ Dissolution Petition

The following must apply to you:

  • You must have been married or in a civil partnership for at least 1 year;
  • You must have an original copy of your marriage certificate (and if applicable a translation that has been certified by a notary public or authenticated by a statement of truth);
  • The court must have jurisdiction to deal with the application (most frequently both of you will be habitually resident in England and Wales, however there can be other ways of securing jurisdiction of the court such as both of you being domiciled in England and Wales).

You need to decide who will be the petitioner, and who will respond to the divorce petition.

In addition, you need to decide what reason the petitioner will use in the divorce petition. There are currently five reasons you can choose from:

  • Unreasonable behaviour (less than desirable if you are trying to keep things amicable, but sometimes the only option with the law as it currently is!)
  • Adultery
  • Desertion
  • 2 years separation (and both of you agree – the most common option among our clients)
  • 5 years separation (only one person has to agree)

For more information see: ‘Grounds for divorce: a handy guide.’

A fee of £550 is payable too (this is an administrative fee).

Step 2: The Acknowledgment Of Service

This is a form sent from the court to the respondent to the petition. They need to complete it and send it back. In this form, they confirm they agree to the divorce/ dissolution.

Step 3: Decree Nisi

A District Judge will review your petition and either agree or disagree that the ground for divorce/ dissolution has been met. They must be satisfied that the marriage has ‘irretrievably broken down’ such as the petitioner could not reasonably be expected to carry on living with the respondent.

If they agree, a certificate of entitlement to a Decree Nisi will be issued and a ‘Decree Nisi Pronouncement date.’ It is important that this is obtained before financial settlement is reached as a consent order cannot be applied for until Decree Nisi has been pronounced.

Note the whole process of filing the petition and applying for Decree Nisi goes through the one centre at Bury St Edmunds, and can take as long as 3-6 months. Starting the process early is a must therefore to avoid likely delay.

Step 4: Decree Absolute

Six weeks and one day after the date for Decree Nisi, the petitioner can apply for Decree Absolute. This should generally only be applied for after financial settlement has been achieved, and an order has been made (hopefully by consent) setting out your financial arrangements going forwards.


If you have more questions about this topic or any other legal issues arising on divorce or separation, please do get in touch as we are always happy to help. You can call us on 0203 488 4475 or email contact@thedivorcesurgery.co.uk.


Author Name: Editor
admin Published content by The Divorce Surgery Editorial Team.

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