Whether you want a divorce or separation or are heading down that route reluctantly, having a strong team supporting you and giving you clear, practical advice will make all the difference. The keys to achieving a good outcome for you is understanding where you stand, knowing what the process is and ensuring that you remain in control.

If your marriage has broken down, a divorce can be applied for as long as you have been married for at least one year. An application needs to be based on one of five facts

  • unreasonable behaviour
  • adultery
  • living apart for two years and you both agree to a divorce
  • living apart for five years
  • desertion for more than two years

In many cases, divorce proceedings are straightforward and our role is to guide you through the process to an outcome that is fair to you and allows you to move on with your life. However, complications sometimes arise, for example, if the other spouse’s whereabouts are unknown or if they do not respond to the court papers. We are experienced in resolving these difficulties as amicably as possible whilst ensuring your position is respected and a fair outcome for you.

An alternative to divorce is a judicial separation where a separation agreement is reached with the help of qualified counsellors and mediators if needed. Married couples often choose this option with a view to divorcing after a two year separation to avoid attributing blame.

For separating couples in a civil partnership the process is the same as a divorce but the terminology is different.

Frequently asked questions about divorce and separation

To obtain a divorce in England and Wales, married couples must prove to the court that their marriage has irretrievably broken down. The person asking for a divorce has to establish one of five facts:

  • The husband/wife has behaved in such a way that it would be unreasonable to expect to continue to live with them.
  • The husband/wife has committed adultery and it would be intolerable to live with them
  • the husband/wife have been living separately for two years or more and both agree to divorce.
  • The husband/wife have been living separately for five years or more and they wish to divorce, irrespective of the other spouse’s position.
  • The husband/wife has left for a continuous period of two years or more.

Divorce proceedings can be initiated if the husband and/or wife have been resident within England and Wales for a certain period and married for one year prior to presenting your divorce petition to the court.

  1. The petitioner (the person who applies for a divorce) sends the divorce petition and an original or certified copy of the marriage certificate to the court. The court fee for sending the petition is £550.
  2. The court issues the petition and sends divorce documents to the respondent (the petitioner’s spouse). The respondent must complete and return the acknowledgement form to the court within seven working days.
  3. The court processes the acknowledgement form and sends it the petitioner who then applies for decree nisi, the midpoint in divorce proceedings.
  4. The judge issues the decree nisi and the petitioner is then entitled to their divorce decree.
  5. After six weeks and one day have passed following the date of decree nisi, the petitioner can apply to the court for decree absolute.

Once the court processes the decree absolute application, the divorce is complete and the marriage is legally dissolved.

If divorce proceedings are straightforward, the process will usually take five to six months from issuing the petition to obtaining decree absolute. However, if the financial issues have not been resolved then it may be suitable to delay the application for decree absolute as various financial implications flow from the granting of the final decree.

If divorce is perhaps not the right choice, another option is judicial separation and reaching a separation agreement with the help of qualified counsellors and mediators where appropriate.

A separation agreement is a written agreement between the husband and wife, signed as a deed. It records the separation and can set any financial settlements agreed as well as the arrangements for care of the children.

Separation agreements are often entered into with a view to divorcing on the basis of a two year separation to avoid having to attribute blame.

If the children are under 16 year or aged between 16 and 18 years and in full time education, a statement will need to be filed with the court indicating the future arrangements for the children, including where the children are to live and how much time they are to spend with the other parent.

The procedure is the same but some of the terminology is different. The person who applies for a dissolution is called the ‘applicant’. The applicant will apply for a conditional order (as opposed to a decree nisi) and then a final order (rather than decree absolute).

Get in touch with our divorce solicitors in St Albans

If you need assistance with a divorce or separation or any other areas of family law, please contact us today.

We have offices in St Albans and Radlett and we regularly help individuals from across Hertfordshire, London and the UK.

Why choose Debenhams Ottaway’s family team?

  • We have a long history of looking after couples and families in St Albans, across Hertfordshire and beyond
  • Our team and lawyers are ranked in the leading legal directories Chambers UK and The Legal 500 (tier 1) for family law
  • We have the right people and technical excellence to look after you – our lawyers are Law Society accredited for Family Law Advanced and accredited Resolution specialists in complex financial remedies and cohabitation
  • Our family team is described as “one of the strongest outside London and holds its own in all cases” – The Legal 500